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How to Make a Successful Shift into a Career in Anesthesiology

How to Make a Successful Shift into a Career in Anesthesiology

If you are compassionate, detail-oriented, calm under pressure, and have a strong aptitude for math, science, and problem solving, you will likely excel as a Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant.

Employment in healthcare occupations continues to grow at a rate that far outpaces the average for all occupations; it is expected to increase by 13% from 2021 to 2031. Anesthesia is a highly rewarding specialty that offers growth opportunities not only for licensed anesthesiologists and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) but also for Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants (CAAs).  

What Do Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants Do?  

CAAs are specialized physician assistants who work as part of an anesthesia care team, under the direction of a licensed anesthesiologist. Employment of physician assistants, including CAAs, is projected to grow 28% between 2021 and 2031 — resulting in an average of 12,700 openings each year over the decade.  

CAAs administer direct patient care, handling responsibilities such as:  

  • Taking patient histories
  • Performing physical exams and lab tests 
  • Preparing patients to be monitored 
  • Assisting with preparatory procedures  
  • Inserting venous, arterial, and other invasive catheters 
  • Inducing, sustaining, and maintaining anesthesia levels  
  • Performing airway management, including intubation  
  • Ensuring quality and continuity of care, from pre-op to post-op 

If you are compassionate, detail-oriented, and calm under pressure; plus have a strong aptitude for math, science, and problem-solving, you are likely to excel as a CAA. Successful anesthesiologist assistants have strong interpersonal and communication skills and work well on teams. CAAs have strong earning potential and opportunities to take positions that offer high flexibility and work-life balance.  

How to Become a Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant 

To become a CAA, you need a four-year college degree with pre-medical courses in advanced mathematics, advanced biology, general and organic chemistry, and physics. If you already have a four-year degree in a non-medical field, you can take additional college courses to complete your pre-med curriculum.  

Next, future CAAs take the MCAT or GRE and apply to a two-year master’s program in anesthesia that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The academic part of your program will typically focus on basic science knowledge in anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, and pharmacology. During the clinical part of your training (over 2,000 hours), you will build experience and skills in areas such as patient monitoring and assessment, anesthesia delivery systems, and life support systems.  

To begin practicing as a CAA, you must complete your certification by passing an exam administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners and overseen by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants. Once you are certified, you also must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years and retake the certification exam every six years. As a CAA, you can practice in 20 jurisdictions across the U.S.  

Interested in learning more about careers in anesthesiology? Get in touch.


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