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What is an Anesthesiologist Assistant?
An Anesthesiologist Assistant or AA is a non-physician medical professional that practices anesthesia under the direct supervision of a specialist physician and/or anesthesiologist. Anesthesiologist Assistants work as part of an ACT (anesthesia care team) to provide optimal care for their patient. According to the team at the ASA, Anesthesia can generally be classified into four categories: regional, local, general, and monitored sedation.
The ACT is ultimately responsible for anesthesia consultations, personnel management, pre-anesthesia evaluations, post-anesthesia evaluations, creating an anesthetic plan, and managing a patient's anesthetic plan. An anesthesia care team can consist of the following members depending on the organization and scope of care: physicians, anesthesiology assistants, medical assistant, anesthesiologists, anesthesiology residents, student nurse anesthetist, nurse anesthetist, anesthesiology fellows, and anesthesiologist assistant student.
How to Become an Anesthesiologist Assistant
A degree for an anesthesiologist assistant will provide students with the knowledge and skill necessary to assist in the treatment of pain through medication before, during, and after surgery. A student wishing to pursue anesthesiologist assistance major will first need to earn a bachelor's degree in a pre-medical field such as biology or chemistry. Once a qualifying degree has been earned, the student will enter an anesthesiologist assistant master's program from an accredited college or university.
Students in a master's degree program will take upper-level courses plus be required to complete clinical rotations in an approved medical facility. During this timeframe, students will learn how to take patient histories, learn about various anesthetics, the delivery and recovery from such anesthesia, and how to monitor the effects of various anesthesia throughout myriad surgical procedures.
Earning Your Anesthesiology Assistant Degree
A curriculum in anesthesiologist assistance may include a variety of classes in the biological and chemical sciences. The curricular design with depend on the university and their teaching pedagogy, accreditation, and resources. Examples of classes you can expect to see include:
- Clinical Anesthesia
- Medical Terminology
- Principles of Airway Management
- Advanced Life Support
- Clinical Labs
- Anesthesia Practices and Principles
- Research Methods
- Pharmacology for Anesthesia
Where Do Anesthesiology Assistants Work?
Anesthesiologist assistants will work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, typically in a hospital or clinical setting. Individuals pursuing a career in as an anesthesiologist assistant will be responsible for taking patient histories and observing the effects of medication and anesthesia on the patient. During the course of surgery, an assistant will administer the anesthesia as prescribed by the anesthesiologist. Assistants will do well to note any complications and changes in a patient's condition, immediately reporting such changes to the supervisor and offering corrective remedy when necessary.
Do Anesthesiology Assistants Need to Be Licensed?
Anesthesiologist assistants must obtain licensure depending on the state. Nearly half the states in the union require some form of licensure, with 6 states allowing work specifically ascribed to anesthesiologists to be performed by assistants while under the supervision of a licensed anesthesiologist. To learn more about the licensure requirements in your state of residence, simply visit the National Commission for Certification for Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA).
How Much to Anesthesiology Assistants Make?
The average anesthesiologist assistant salary is approximately $94,000 per year. The job outlook for AA's is rated as 'Excellent' as the BLS estimates a growth rate of 37% over the coming decade which is well above the 6% average for all jobs during that time span. Job opportunities are expected to grow faster than average over the next decade as the population ages and the need for medical professionals at all levels increases in demand. Anesthesiologist Assistant salaries will vary by organization type (clinics, hospitals, medical centers, research facilities), the scope of work, experience, and the geographic location of the employer as larger metro areas tend to pay more than their rural counterparts.
Individuals interested in anesthesiologist assistance may also be interested in degree programs such as medical assistance, pharmacy technician, and physical therapist assistance. Additionally, you may be interested in extending your learning in the field after graduation by joining a regional or national association such as the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) and the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).