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Anesthesiologist Assistant

Overview

Anesthesiologist assistants are highly skilled professionals who work under the direction of licensed anesthesiologists (specialist physicians) and exclusively within the Anesthesia Care Team environment as described by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) to design and implement anesthesia care plans.  

Anesthesiologist assistants operate anesthesia equipment, monitor patients and provide quality anesthesia care. They accompany the patient before, during and after anesthesia to ensure quality and continuity of care. Anesthesiologist assistants are trained to assist in life-saving measures, such as CPR, and life support. Anesthesiologist assistants are in high demand, because of the need for skilled personnel to deliver anesthesia. Anesthesiologist assistants operate as physician extenders, performing critical tasks that ensure the safety of the patient and promote optimal health outcomes.

Working Conditions

Anesthesiologist assistants work in hospitals and surgery centers under the direction of a licensed anesthesiologist and exclusively within the Anesthesia Care Team environment as described by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).  

The profession maintains a typical work week with options for on-call, evening or weekend assignments. The anesthesiologist assistant’s responsibilities include:

  • Taking a complete health history of the patient
  • Performing physical exams to identify any issues that may affect the anesthesia care plan
  • Administering necessary diagnostic and laboratory tests (such as taking blood)
  • Preparing the patient to be monitored, using noninvasive and invasive methods, as determined by the physician
  • Assisting with preparatory procedures, such as pulmonary artery catheterization, electroencephalographic spectral analysis, echocardiography and evoked potentials
  • Pre-testing and calibrating of anesthesia delivery systems and monitors
  • Inducing, sustaining and adjusting anesthesia levels
  • Ensuring continuity of care through the postoperative recovery period
  • Assisting with life support where required, including airway management
  • Performing functions in the intensive care unit and pain clinic
  • Performing administrative duties, research and clinical instruction
Anesthesiologist Assistant
Salary
$110,000 - $120,000
Years in school
6 - 8
Job outlook
Excellent

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Academic Requirements

Anesthesiologist assistants must first complete a four-year college degree, taking a pre-medical curriculum with course work in general and organic chemistry, advanced college math, general and advanced biology and physics.

The two-year, master’s level anesthesiologist assistant training program focuses on course work that enhances basic science knowledge in physiology, pharmacology, anatomy and biochemistry with special emphasis on the cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, nervous and neuromuscular systems.

Clinical instruction educates students extensively in patient monitoring, anesthesia delivery systems, life support systems, patient assessment and in the skills needed to provide compassionate and quality care.

Look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), works closely with a medical school and is taught by physicians who are board-certified in anesthesiology. Search for schools that provide training for this career. 

Students complete 600 hours of coursework in the classroom and laboratory, a minimum of 63 didactic hours and 2,000 hours of clinical training. During the clinical portion, students will administer as many as 600 different anesthetics during a variety of surgeries. Clinical training also prepares students to monitor patients, operate anesthesia delivery systems and life support systems and accurately assess patients.

A solid grasp of safety protocols and effective communication skills are also essential to help the anesthesiologist assistant excel as part of the treatment team.

Students must pass a six-hour certification exam administered by the National Commission for the Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA). Anesthesiologist assistants are also required to complete 40 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and pass a qualifying exam every six years.