The medical practice of anesthesiology is a fascinating practice and can be incredibly rewarding. As an anesthesiology assistant, you would work under guidelines of a qualified Anesthesiologist to assist in medical procedures that will be performed predominantly in a hospital environment. It is to be noted that an anesthesiology medical assistant is a non-physician healthcare career that provides support to qualified physicians.
- You will be responsible for collecting data and paperwork prior to a medical procedure, such as a patient’s medical history.
- You will be required to perform pre-operative tasks, such as setting up intravenous and arterial catheters, as well as specialist catheters involved in measuring central venous pressure.
- You will be involved in Airway management of the patient, as well as be involved in the administration of drugs prior to the induction of anesthesia, as well as maintaining this during the course of the medical procedure.
- You will assist in peripheral and regional nerve blockage.
- You will be required to administer support therapy such as intravenous fluids and cardiovascular drugs.
- You may evaluate and treat life-threatening situations, such as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
- You will be required to monitor the patient during the course of their procedure.
- You will provide post-operative care of the patient in the recovery room.
- You may perform duties in Intensive Care Units, as well as Pain Clinics.
Where Can An Anesthesiology Medical Assistant Work?
As an Anesthesiology Assistant, the place you will be most likely to work would be in the operating theaters of various hospitals. There are however other options available that require the services of Anesthesiology Assistants.
- Hospitals – Anesthesiology Assistants are required to assist Anesthetists during surgical procedures in theaters.
- Intensive Care Units – Patients in intensive care units predominantly require sedation depending on their illness or injuries and you may be required to oversee this care whilst they are on the ward.
- Obstetrical Departments – You will work with patients needing spinal blocks or epidurals during labour or caesarian section and will assist with pain management during the procedure.
- Ambulatory Assistance – You may be required to oversee emergency medical care during the transportation/ transfer of a patient between hospitals.
The following states recognize anesthesiology assistants by license and certification:
- District of Columbia
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The following are states in which AA’s practice through physician delegation:
- New Hampshire
- West Virginia
Personal Skills And Attributes Of An Anesthesiology Medical Assistant
As with any profession there are governing principles and certain attributes that are required of you, particularly if you are working in the medical profession which involves great responsibility. Some of these are:
- Capacity to understand and apply scientific findings.
- Ability to think critically.
- Skill to manoeuvre delicate instruments.
- Ability to follow direction.
- Passion for providing care to people.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Excellent bedside manner.
- Willingness to further studies/ update current skills.
Qualifying As An Anesthesiology Assistant
To qualify as a potential student for an anesthesiology program, most institutions will require that you have an undergraduate premedical background. Thereafter you will be required to obtain a Master’s degree by an accredited program. Most programs require that you complete either an MCAT or GRE entrance exam. Once you have completed your Master’s degree, you will be required to join a National Registry of Anesthesiology Assistants. It is of vital importance that you research whether AA’s are able to practice within your state, as not all states recognize this qualification and the scope of practice will also be defined by the area in which you practice. It is also important to ensure that your chosen program is registered with the Council on Accreditation of Allied Health Partners.
What Will The Length Of Study Be?
On average the program (after completing your undergraduate degree) is approximately 18 to 28 months to complete, dependent on the institution you have chosen. This is the course of academic study, and most programs will require that you complete between approximately 2000- 2700 clinical hours of training.
What Will The Curriculum Consist Of?
Whilst programs may vary to a degree state to state, the subjects you can expect to encounter are:
- Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology and Pharmacology. These subjects will be explored in depth with particular attention to cardiovascular, renal, nervous and neuromuscular systems.
- Microbiology, Pathology and Immunology.
- Medical Biophysics will focus on devices used in Anesthesia delivery, life-support systems and patient monitors. You will be required to study the patient monitoring devices in depth.
- Data Analysis which will require you to read and interpret data, as well as effectively collect and process it.
- Clinical Decision Making.
- Training on the clinical practice of Anesthesia, as well as quality assurance standards in the scope of practice.
What Will the Cost be?
As with any degree, the cost of your education will be quite dependent on the institution you have chosen to study at, whether it be a private or state school. As you will be required to have an undergraduate degree it is important to consider the cost of that, as well as the cost of obtaining your Master’s degree. Primarily, your Master’s degree will cost up to $100 000 for tuition only. This amount does not take into consideration items such as books (estimated to be approximately $3500 upwards), boarding facilities and other additional items you may require that are specific to your institution.
Currently there are 8 Programs that are accredited with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. It is vitally important to consider the accreditation of any program you choose, especially when looking at a career in the health industry. Current Accredited Programs are running at the following Institutions:
- Case Western Reserve University – Washington D.C
- Nova Southeastern University – FT Lauderdale, FL
- Nova Southeastern University – Tampa, FL
- Emory University – Atlanta, GA
- South University- Savannah, GA
- University of Missouri – Kansas City, MO
- Case Western Reserve University –Cleveland, OH
- Case Western Reserve University- Houston, TX
Once you have completed your Masters, you will be required to register with the The National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiology Assistants (NCCAA). They have listed their exam and certification costs as follows:
- Certifying Examination Application Fee – $1327.50
- CDQ Examination Fee – $742.50
- CME Registration Fee – 190.00
You will have an initial certifying exam, which will be followed by registration of ongoing medical education, as well as interval examinations for continued demonstration of skills.
You can read more about certification on their website – www.aa-nccaa.org
Uniforms And Additional Accessories You Will Require
As with most careers in the Medical Profession, you will be required to wear a uniform both as part of your recognition as a medical heath practitioner, as well as for safety reasons. Many institutions have a governing policies and principles regarding uniforms and it is advised that you enquire about these before you purchase these items.
The basic uniform of an Anesthesiologist Assistant will be scrubs, as you will be working in sterile operating theaters. Some hospitals provide sterile scrubs for theater, but you will also need your own personal uniform to wear on a daily basis. It is recommended that you purchase three tops, two pairs of pants and two pairs of shoes.
Scrubs tops range from around $6, 00 and will vary according to the brand and style you have chosen. Pants on average cost approximately $10, 00 and will again vary in price. Your shoes will need to comfortable and preferably orthopedic. Many professionals opt for orthopedic shoes as the strain on your back and feet can be intense and these shoes allow for comfort as well as being regulated to provide sufficient support for feet and aid in the correct positioning for optimal back support. For professionals working in the theater environment, clogs appear to be the most popular for hygiene and comfort purposes. It is important to select shoes that have rubber soles, as your risk for slipping is quite large considering that O.R’s are tiled. Shoes range from $25, 00 upwards. It is best not to compromise on price when you are purchasing shoes and to rather look at the quality. Shoes are exposed to a lot of wear and tear and it is advisable that your shoes are strong enough to deal with this, rather than spending large amounts of money replacing them every couple of months.
Helpful Websites for uniforms are:
- www.tafford.com – Tafford are stockists of many styles of uniforms and they have some great prints on offer. They are also a stockist of shoes.
- www.pulseuniforms.com – Pulse Uniforms stocks every possible style and brand of scrubs available in America.
- www.medical-footwear.com – An excellent stockist of high quality shoes for the O.R
- www.e-bay.com – You can purchase second hand uniforms as well as new uniforms from a wide range of sources on E-bay.
- www.uniformadvantage.com – They have an excellent section for discounted scrubs and accessories.
As an anesthesiology assistant you will be a working ambassador of the institution you are employed by, as well as an ambassador for the medical profession as a whole. Despite the fact that you will be working predominantly in the O.R, there are certain guidelines you will need to take into consideration.
- Hair- Your hair should be kept off your face at all times. It is not only an issue of neatness, but hair can very easily get snagged in equipment, especially in an O.R environment.
- Nails – Nails should be kept short and clean at all times. Nails are an excellent breeding ground for all types of bacteria, and should be kept short to avoid spreading germs at all times. Having long nails will also put you at risk for splitting your surgical gloves. Gloves are there for your protection, as well as the patient and it would be incredibly risky to have your gloves break during a procedure – not to mention inconvenient.
- Personal Care – In any medical environment this is very important. Cleanliness is vital and is an indicator of the care you provide. As you will be working with people from all walks of life, it is important to remember that some people are allergic to aerosols and if you need to freshen up, it is best to use a roll-on antiperspirant.
- Uniforms – Your uniform should be kept clean and tidy at all times. Most O.R’s provide sterile scrubs, however there is always a chance that you may be subject to spills during a procedure and it is best to keep a spare set of scrubs on hand.
- Accessories – Most professions that involve operating in sterile environment prefer that accessories such as jewelry are kept to a minimum, if they are allowed at all. It is important to consult your institutions policies regarding accessories, as well as to exercise personal discretion and common-sense when wearing these.
Salaries For Anesthesiology Assistants
Being an Anesthesiology Assistant means carrying a lot of responsibility for the lives of people and is therefore one of the higher paying careers and is ranked 15 in the best jobs in America. An Anesthesiology Assistant is considered one of the top paying non-physician careers in America. Starting salaries for recent graduates was estimated at approximately $95 000 to $120 000 a year for an average 40 hour week. The high-end salary range was calculated at approximately $160 000 to $214 000 for more experienced professionals. These salary estimations were calculated according to additional benefits as well as shift work (On-call duties). Your salary can also be largely dependent on the State you are employed in, as well as the Institution you are employed at.
When researching any career it is best to get an idea of what you will be doing from people who are currently employed or studying to be an Anesthesiology Assistant. There are some great forums for A.A’s where you can get a first –hand account of what your career will be like.
- http://members.boardhost.com/Anesthesia/ – This forum covers pretty much any question you could ask regarding being an Anesthesiology Assistant and is a great way to network in the profession.
- http://forums.studentdoctor.net/ – A forum of particular interest to students of any medical profession.
- http://www.anesthetistforum.com/ – This forum focuses specifically on the Anesthesiology.