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Board of Directors

The purpose of the Certification Board is to maintain and oversee the operation of NASC certification programs in a manner consistent with recognized national accreditation standards, in alignment with NASC mission and values, and with the highest level of professional integrity. The certification board shall have the sole authority for establishing, reviewing, and maintaining essential certification program policies and procedures as it deems necessary to carry out its purpose. The certification board consists of six members who are RNFAs, as well as one public member. The board members’ terms are staggered, allowing for only a small number of members to be elected each year.

Board Members


Robert Salsameda, MSN, FNP-C, NP, RN, CNOR, CRNFA

Robert (Bob) Salsameda is currently practicing as certified neuroscience, perioperative, and family nurse practitioner with 49 years of perioperative and first assistant nursing experience. For the last 28 years, he has practiced in the role of the first assistant in a neurological surgery medical group practice. Bob maintains allied health professional privileges at Memorial Care Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller’s Children Hospital, a designated level two (II) trauma center. His initial perioperative experience came from military service in the U.S. Navy hospital nursing corps. Bob functions in collaborative interdependent practice as an advanced practice nurse (NP) in the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative areas of surgical neurology. He has completed twenty-eight years of instructing APRNs and perioperative nurses in the RN First Assistant role at the university level. Bob has mentored several AG/ACNP students in the care of the neurosurgical patient. He has been an invited presenter at three American Association of Neuroscience Nurses educational conferences, the American College of Nurse Practitioner’s national educational conference, and regional California Association of Nurse Practitioners annual educational conferences/seminars on various trauma and neurosurgical modalities. Bob has written and published two chapters on neurological surgery techniques for the RN First Assistant in AORN Core Curriculum for the RN First Assistant.

Karen Knapp, BSN, RN, CNOR, CRNFA
Vice President

Karen M. Knapp has 39 years of OR experience, a BSN, 25 years as a CRNFA, and 14 years as a travel nurse/consultant working in settings such as ASCs, critical access, and large acute care hospitals. She has experience in orthopedics, spine, neuro, vascular, general, and endoscopy. Karen is currently employed by Trinity Health Muskegon, MI on the open-heart team. She also has experience as a Clinical Implementation Specialist assisting with implementing Medhost EMR Systems in healthcare settings; active from Discovery to Go-Lives. She remains very active nationally with AORN as well as her current work with NASC in promoting RNFA certification. She is passionate, motivated, innovative, goal-directed, and member-focused. Her achievements include 2018-2019 AORN Nominating Committee Chair (2017-2019 committee); 2013-2015 AORN Board of Directors; Certificate of Mastery in Surgical Services Management; Chair of the AORN RNFA Specialty Assembly; Education including multiple presentations to staff, AORN Chapters and sessions at AORN Conference and Expo.

Dean Parsons, MSN, RN, CNOR, CRNFA

Dean Parsons has over 28 years of first assisting experience in a variety of service lines including Cardiac, Orthopaedics, Robotics, and General Surgeries. He is currently practicing as an RNFA in Kearney Nebraska, where he specializes in Cardiac.  Throughout his career, Dean has fulfilled several leadership roles to include O.R. manager and Team Leader for Open Heart Surgery for several years and was recognized in a commercial and within hospital system literature for his leadership abilities.  Dean has served on and chaired various committees within his career and has always maintained a focus on positive patient experience and solid quality outcomes that are fundamentally driven.   In addition to working as a full-time RNFA, Dean teaches hands-on first assisting workshops in various locations around the country, amounting to approximately 20 multi-day workshops per year.  His personal goal each workshop is to help every student master the skills of the nation’s top assistants. About four times a year Dean also teaches wound closure techniques specific to  Nurse Practitioners at various sites around the country and was honored to be able to teach a pre-congress wound closure class at AORN Congress.  Dean’s education includes a diploma in Surgical Technology from Southeast Community College, an Associate of Science in Nursing from Metropolitan Community College, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Regis University. He is currently working to achieve his Family Nurse Practitioner Status through Chamberlain University.

Heidi Keegan BSN, RN, CNOR, CRNFA

Heidi Keegan is committed and dedicated to developing, teaching, and promoting RNFAs in Surgery. She received her RN Diploma from Dixon School of Nursing Abington Hospital, and her BSN from Immaculata University. She started her nursing career in 1996 on a cardiac telemetry unit and progressed to the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care. She was inspired by the Lead CRNFA in the Operating Room at the time and made a career move to the Cardiac Operating Room to be mentored and trained by Charles Eldridge, a CRNFA retired Marine. She has 20 years of cardiac surgery operating experience. She started in scrub and circulating roles, then became Clinical Leader for Cardiac Surgery. She completed RNFA training at Delaware County Community College and was lucky to be taught by Dr. Jane Rothrock herself. She has been practicing as a CRNFA in Cardiac Surgery ever since and has never looked back. Heidi is now the lead CT CRNFA responsible for training and peer mentoring of the assistants. She is currently enrolled in the LaSalle MSN Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program. Heidi has volunteered to write test questions for CCI for the CNOR exam and CRNFA exam. She serves as a co-chair of Education at the RNFA Specialty Assembly. Currently, she works as a volunteer CRNFA with NASC in developing the new portfolio for CRNFA certification. She has also served as a guest lecturer on various topics pertaining to Cardiac Surgery for the Dixon School of Nursing, AACN TRENDS in Critical Care Conference, and Issues and Answers for RNFA conference.

Members at Large

Heather Kooiker DNP, MSN, RN, CNL, CNOR, CRNFA

Heather D Kooiker is Mastered prepared, board-certified Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) who holds a Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR) certificate along with a Certification as an RN First Assistant (CRNFA).  Heather is currently full-time nursing faculty for an area University where she oversees the Perioperative Clinical Program and is teaching evidence-based practice to the new generation of nurses.  Heather is also a clinical consultant, sharing her knowledge and expertise with medical manufactures through her small consulting company.  Heather maintains her clinical edge by working as a CRNFA for an ambulatory plastic surgery center. The foundation of Heather’s knowledge has been built through her 25 years of surgical services work. Heather specializes in gap analysis, policy and procedures, clinical practice guidelines, nursing-sensitive indicators, quality benchmarking, risk assessment and identification, patient safety, and collaboration through the empowerment of the front-line staff, in order to successfully implement change.  Heather has published her work and presented her work nationwide and is truly an expert in the surgical field.  Heather is the current president of her local AORN chapter and is active with the ANA mentoring program, CCI CNOR coaching program and most recently has joined the Board of Directors for the National Assistant at Surgery Certification (NASC).

Jeanne La Fountain, MBA, BSN, RN, CNOR(E), CRNFA(E)

Jeanne LaFountain has an MBA and over 40 years of experience as a clinical expert, mentor, educator, RNFA, staff nurse, and manager. Jeanne first earned her CRNFA in 1993. She went on to develop an RNFA program at a local community college and expanded it from CEs to an eight credit hour online distance learning program.  Jeanne has been a national and international presenter and published author on various nursing and healthcare topics. She is a highly decorated Air Force Flight Nurse and is responsible for leading over 200 military aeromedical evacuation team members during five deployments. Her team transported over 4,000 wounded and ill warriors to higher levels of medical care. Jeanne currently works part-time assisting in all surgical specialties during complex surgical procedures

Richard Nirk, MS

Richard Nirk holds an MBA in International Finance and currently serves as a Director at Excel Management Group, Inc. He has over 30 years of experience in sales, credit risk, and operations with an emphasis on construction and renovation lending. He has served as the CEO of Granite-Excel Companies, Executive Director for the National Association of Residential Construction Lenders (NARCL),  and has directed consulting work for the FDIC. Richard has also held senior positions with JPMorgan Chase, American Express, and CitiGroup. In his spare time, Richard volunteers as president of his HOA.