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Anesthesiologist assistant in scrubs comforting a patient on a hospital bed

Are you intrigued by the fast-paced world of medicine? Do you thrive under pressure and have a knack for staying cool in intense situations? If you're nodding along, then join us as we dive into a career path that might be your perfect fit: becoming an anesthesiologist assistant!*

What Exactly Does an Anesthesiologist Assistant Do?

First things first, let's take a look at what an anesthesiologist assistant (AA) does. Picture this: you're in the operating room, the heart of the medical drama. While the surgeon works, you're helping to ensure the patient is comfortably numb, breathing steadily, and cruising smoothly through the surgery.

For an anesthesiologist assistant, that’s just part of another day on the job. From hospitals to private practices to outpatient centers, AAs are critical members of the anesthesia care team. Following the direction of a qualified physician anesthesiologist, they provide anesthesia care to all ages, degrees of illness, and for the entire spectrum of surgical procedures. Their duties may include:

  • Gathering preoperative patient data
  • Establishing an airway and managing ventilation of the lungs
  • Administering anesthesiology drugs
  • Placing systems for vascular access
  • Continuously assessing the function of the anesthesia machine and related equipment
  • Establishing and interpreting patient monitoring during anesthetic management

Steps to Becoming an Anesthesiologist Assistant

1. Lay the Groundwork in Education

To embark on this journey, a solid educational foundation is key. For starters, you’ll need to have a bachelor's degree, ideally one focused on science—think biology, chemistry, or a related field. However, the doors aren't shut to you if you pursue or already have another degree. What’s most important is that you complete the prerequisite courses required by your preferred graduate program.

After you've conquered your undergrad years and prerequisite requirements, the next stop is a master's degree program specifically designed for aspiring anesthesiologist assistants. These programs are designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills needed in the OR and other healthcare settings. (Expect your Anesthesiologist Assistant graduate program to be between 2 to 3 years long.)

In addition to requiring specific prerequisite courses, most Anesthesiologist Assistant programs expect you to take an entrance exam such as the GRE or MCAT. Other admissions requirements may include recommendation letters, a personal statement, and shadowing experience. Do your research well in advance on what your preferred schools require!

Step 2: Gain Hands-On Experience

Theory is a vital starting point, but practical experience is indispensable. During your master's degree program, you'll undergo clinical rotations, gaining hands-on experience in various medical settings. The rotations are your chance to hone your skills working with a range of patients and conditions under the guidance of seasoned professionals. These experiences build on your course lectures, coursework, and simulation labs to help prepare you for the dynamic challenges of the operating room.

Step 3: Get Certified**

Once you complete your master's program, it's time for the next big step: certification. The National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) is the gatekeeper to your official anesthesiologist assistant certification. Passing the certification exam is your next step to becoming a professional anesthesiologist assistant.

Step 4: Find Your First Job in the Field

Congratulations, you've officially earned your stripes as an anesthesiologist assistant! Now, you can unleash your skills in the real world. Whether you're drawn to the hustle of a big-city hospital or the charm of a suburban clinic, the possibilities for where to start your new career are wide open*.

Step 5: Stay Curious and Keep Learning

Medicine is ever-evolving, and staying at the forefront of knowledge is your secret weapon. Attend conferences, join professional organizations, and never underestimate the power of curiosity. Demonstrating your commitment to the field can help you start and grow your career and eventually even play a part in advancing the profession and practice of anesthesiology.

What’s Next

There you have it: your roadmap to becoming an anesthesiologist assistant! As you pursue your goals, embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and prepare to make a real difference in the lives of those you serve.

Ready to get going? Learn about South University’s Master of Medical Science in Anesthesia Science program today!

*South University does not promise or guarantee employment.

**It is up to each student to review requirements for certification/licensure, as well as the eligibility criteria to sit for certification/licensure exams.  South University cannot guarantee each graduate will pass the required examinations.  Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

Student must pass the required licensure to work in their respective field.