Anesthesiologist assistants are highly skilled professionals who work under the direction of licensed anesthesiologists (specialist physicians) and as part of anesthesia care team to design and implement anesthesia care plans.
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 advanced cardiac life support.
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 assistants work in hospitals and surgery centers under the direction of a licensed anesthesiologist. The profession maintains a typical work week with options for on-call, evening or weekend assignments.
Salary Range and Outlook
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.
The average salary range for anesthesiologist assistants is $95,000-180,000.
To become an anesthesiologist assistant, you must first complete a four-year college degree, taking a pre-medical curriculum with course work in general and organic chemistry; advanced college math, including calculus; and general and advanced biology and physics.
Once you have a bachelor’s degree, you can apply to a master’s program in anesthesia. Look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, works closely with a medical school and is taught by physicians who are board-certified in anesthesiology.
The two-year 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.
The clinical part of your program will provide you with experience in patient monitoring, anesthesia delivery systems, life support systems and patient assessment and in the skills needed to provide compassionate and quality care. During the clinical portion, students administer a minimum of 600 different anesthetics during a variety of surgeries.
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.
Once you have completed your master’s program, you will need to pass a certification exam administered by the National Commission for the Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants.
Learn More About a Career as an Anesthesiologist Assistant
- Watch a video about anesthesiologist assistants and the education needed to become one.
- Read these FAQs about the history of the profession, the education needed for it and the scope of practice.