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Anesthesiologist Assistant

Occupational Description

The Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA) is a skilled person qualified by advanced academic and clinical education to provide anesthetic care under the direction of a qualified physician anesthesiologist. The physician anesthesiologist who is responsible for the AA is available to prescribe and direct particular therapeutic interventions in the operating room and the intensive care setting.

By virtue of the basic science education and clinical practice experience, the AA is skilled in the use of contemporary state-of-the-art patient monitoring techniques in anesthesia care environments. The AA performs complementary and supplementary anesthetic care and monitoring tasks that allow the directing physician anesthesiologist to use his or her own skills more efficiently and effectively.

The AA is prepared to gather patient data, to assist in the evaluation of patients’ physical and mental status, to record the surgical procedures planned, and to help the directing physician anesthesiologist administer the therapeutic plan that has been formulated for the anesthetic care of the patient. The tasks performed by AAs reflect regional variations in anesthesia practice and state regulatory factors.

Job Description

In addition to the duties described in the occupational description above, AAs provide other support according to established protocols. Such activities may include pretesting anesthesia delivery systems and patient monitors and operating special monitors and support devices for critical cardiac, pulmonary, and neurological systems. AAs may be involved in the operation of bedside electronic computer-based monitors and have supervisory responsibilities for laboratory functions associated with anesthesia and operating room care. They provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation in association with other anesthesia care team members and in accordance with approved emergency protocols.

Employment Characteristics

Anesthesiologist assistants work as members of the anesthesia care team in any locale where they may be appropriately directed by legally responsible physician anesthesiologists. The AAs most often work within organizations that also employ nurse anesthetists, and their responsibilities are identical. Experience to date has been that AAs are most commonly employed in larger facilities that perform procedures such as cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, transplant surgery, and trauma care, given the training in extensive patient monitoring devices and complex patients and procedures emphasized in AA educational programs. However, AAs are used in hospitals of all sizes and assist physician anesthesiologists in a variety of settings and for a wide range of procedures.

Educational Programs

Length. These post baccalaureate programs are essentially 24 to 28 months.
Prerequisites. The programs require an undergraduate premedical background (premedical courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math) and a baccalaureate degree. Although any baccalaureate major is acceptable (if premedical requirements are met), majors typically are biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, or one of the allied health professions, such as respiratory therapy, medical technology, or nursing.

Inquiries

Careers. Curriculum inquiries should be directed to the individual programs. Inquiries regarding AA careers should be directed to

Certification/Registration

The National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA), which was founded in 1989, provides the certification process for AAs in the United States. The Commission includes physician anesthesiologists and anesthesiologist assistants. NCCAA contracts with the National Board of Medical Examiners to assist with the certification process, including task analyses, development of content grids, item writing and editing, and administration of examinations. The certification process incorporates a 6-year cycle of certifying examination, examination for continued demonstration of qualifications, and registration of continuing medical education.

National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants
100 Cynthiana Street
Williamstown, KY 41097

(859) 903-0089
Website: www.aa-nccaa.org

Careers/Curriculum

American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants
1231 Collier Road, NW, Suite J
Atlanta, GA 30318
(678) 222-4233
Website:
 www.anesthetist.org