Anesthesiologist Assistants

Anesthesiologist assistants complete advanced clinical training to administer anesthetic treatments under the guidance of licensed anesthesiologists (trained doctors who administer anesthesia to people undergoing surgery or struggling with chronic pain). Anesthesiologists assign various pre-surgery duties to anesthesiologist assistants in operating rooms and other hospital environments.

Anesthesiologist assistants are trained to use sophisticated technology to monitor sedated patients and assist anesthesiologists with other related tasks. Anesthesiologist assistants make it possible for anesthesiologists to administer anesthesia to more patients and work more efficiently.

Anesthesiologist assistants also collect patient information, assist anesthesiologists with patient evaluations, maintain records detailing scheduled surgeries, and assist anesthesiologists with the development anesthetic care plans. The duties of anesthesiologist assistants are affected by state medical regulations.

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants the anesthesiologist assistant’s duties include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Procure a preanesthetic health history, perform an appropriate physical examination, and record relevant patient data.
  • Conduct necessary diagnostic laboratory studies such as drawing arterial and venous blood samples;
  • Adjust and maintain patient anesthesia levels, provide continuity of anesthetic care into and during the post-operative recovery period;
  • Establish monitoring modalities under the direction of a supervising anesthesiologist;
  • Employ advanced monitoring techniques, such as pulmonary artery catheterization, echocardiography, electroencephalographic spectral analysis, and evoked potentials;
  • Employ advanced life support techniques, including intra-arterial cardiovascular assist devices and high frequency ventilation.
  • Recorder post-operative patient progress; compile and record case summaries, and transcribing orders;
  • Assist in the treatment of life-threatening situations, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the basis of industry established protocols.
  • Perform various duties in pain clinics, a intensive care units, and various other settings.
  • Manage various administrative duties relating to personnel, supplies and devices;
  • Participate in the training of staff
  • Administer and monitor regional anesthesia including spinal, IV regional, epidural, etc.

Working Conditions
Anesthesiologist assistants work as part of the anesthesia care under the direction of a licensed anesthesiologist. Anesthesiologist assistants typically work within organizations and companies that also employ nurse anesthetists, as their responsibilities are very similar. Anesthesiologist assistants usually work in large medical facilities and hospitals that regularly perform procedures including cardiac surgery, transplant surgery, neurosurgery, and trauma care. Notwithstanding, anesthesiologist assistants can be found working hospitals of all sizes and assist in a large variety of anesthesia related procedures.

Education and Training Requirements
The first step to becoming an anesthesiologist assistant is to complete a four-year college degree that offers a pre-medical curriculum that covers advanced mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics. After completing their bachelor's degree, students will then complete a graduate training program lasts between 2 – 2 ½ years. Most graduate programs will include advanced coursework in biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology with emphasis placed on neuromuscular, respiratory, nervous, cardiovascular, and renal systems. Upon graduation, students will be skilled in patient assessment and monitoring, life support systems, and the delivery of anesthesia.

As long as prerequisite courses are completed, students with bachelor’s degrees in any field can be admitted to a graduate training program in anesthesiology assisting. However, most students applying to these programs hold bachelor’s degrees in math, physics, biology, chemistry, nursing, medical technology, respiratory therapy, and other allied health fields.

When considering graduate programs in anesthesia assisting you'll want to find a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). You'll also want to make sure the program you choose is take by doctors whoare board-certified anthesthesiologists.

Most graduate anesthesiologist assistant programs require students to complete 600 hours of in-classroom and laboratory coursework, 2,000 hours of clinical training and at least 60 didactic hours. Through clinical training students will become adept at administering anesthetics, operating various anesthesia delivery systems and monitoring patients vitals.

Founded in 1989, the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA), provides a certification process for Anesthesiologist Assistants in the United States. The commission contracts with the National Board of Medical Examiners to assist with the certification process, including development of content grids, task analyses, item editing and writing, and administration of examinations. The certification process includes a 6-year cycle of certifying examination, examination for continued demonstration of qualifications, and registration of continuing medical education. To become certified initially, students must pass a 6 hour exam. To remain certified practicing anesthesiologist assistants must complete continuing medical education (CME).

Job Outlook and Salary
Of the allied health fields, anesthesiologist assistants are among the highest paid professionals. The average anesthesiologist assistant can expect to make between $110,000 and $120,000 a year - on par with what many medical doctors make. Better yet, job prospects for anesthesiology assistants is high and employment opportunities over the next decade are predicated to be strong.

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