Anesthesiologist Assistant

What are anesthesiology assistants? Is this the right career choice for me?

If you are interested in an advanced degree and working in health care, there are many opportunities to pursue at advanced levels without going to medical school and outside of the nursing realm. Are you interested in surgery? Anesthesiologist assistants, also called anesthetists, work under the direction of anesthesiologists and as part of an anesthesiology care team, along with nurses and other assistants. Despite the connotation of “assistant” they are highly educated and play an integral part in supporting the anesthesiologist, as well as in patient care before and after surgery. Anesthesiologist assistants (AA) must earn a master’s degree, which includes six semesters of rigorous academic training as well as clinical training and surgical rotation experience. In order to be eligible for most programs, you will need a bachelor’s degree with successful completion of premed courses.

Where do they work and what are their duties?

Anesthesiologist assistants work under the direction of an anesthesiologist, as part of an anesthesia care team. They are trained in the adjustment of anesthesia and in advanced monitoring and airway management. AAs work in a hospital and are always working under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. Other duties can include collecting patient data before surgery and physical examinations, safely transporting the patient from the operating room to the recovery room and assisting in recovery care. Some administrative duties can also fall under their job description. Work hours for an AA generally are standard, although some jobs may require evening or weekend hours or on-call hours. Salaries are very good and starting salaries can range from $110,000 to $120,000.

Required education and training

This career requires master’s degree. You can earn a Master of Science in Anesthesia or a Master of Health Science. Make sure that the educational program you pursue is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and also that it conforms to the Standards for Anesthesiologist Assistant Program. The first half of most programs combines academic training with some clinical instruction. In the second half of the curriculum, students complete month-long rotations in anesthesiology. They will work in all areas of anesthesiology, which includes ambulatory surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, general surgery, trauma, obstetrics, pediatrics, surgical intensive care, and neurosurgery. Clinical training can focus on different types of anesthesia, such as epidural, spinal, general, and peripheral nerve blockade. Training can involve a mock operating room with an anesthesia simulator.

Anesthesiology assistant certification

Certification as an AA is provided by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA). It requires passing a certifying exam as well as ongoing continuing education to maintain certification. The exam will cover airways, hematology and coagulation, instrumentation and monitoring, neuro anatomy, cardiovascular anatomy, anesthesia, obstetrics and perinatology, pediatrics and neonatology, pharmacology, physics, renal, and respiration. Joining the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants is a good idea for those pursuing the profession so that you can take advantage of conferences, job postings, as well as networking opportunities. This is a fairly new career, with demand still outweighing supply, and it is projected to grow.

More on Anesthesiologist Assistant Licensing and Certification

According to the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants, anesthesiologist assistants are recognized and employed by the federal government and authorized to work in eighteen states. They are licensed professionals in some jurisdictions. These include Alabama, DC, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Vermont. Anesthesia Assistants are also authorized to work in some New Mexico settings. In six additional states, AAs work under the license of the anesthetist (as guided by the Care Team Statement). In other states, nurse anesthetists carry out very similar duties to those of the AA. You can stay on top of current regulations by maintaining ties with the AAAA – remember those four A’s. You may also want to contact the Board of Medicine in your state.

You may pursue voluntary certification through the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants, even if it’s not a legal mandate in your jurisdiction.. You are eligible to sit for certifying exams if you have graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited program or will be graduating within 180 days. You must also be at least 21 and eligible to practice in some U.S. state.

Education and assessment don’t end with initial certification. You will be responsible for earning 40 CME (Continuing Medical Education) units during each two year renewal period. Advanced life support training (PALS, ACLS) do count toward the requirement.

The CDQ assessment is a test of continuing competency. You will still be responsible for the same continuing education requirement on years you are required to take this exam.

If you are still trying to determine the right career choice, take some time to explore additional careers in health care.