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In order to become an anesthesiologist assistant (AA), one must complete a master's degree program at an accredited university as indicated by the Committee on the Accrediting of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP). Anesthesiology assistant programs currently exist in four states. Recent trends suggest, however, that more established programs will be implemented rapidly in the coming years.
This career, which parallels the more commonly recognized nurse anesthetist, serves to function in the assistance of an anesthesiologist in a multitude of health care settings. Anesthesiology assistant programs prepare a graduate for numerous job responsibilities, including the treatment and monitoring of patients prior to, during, and immediately after a medical procedure involving anesthesiology. Anesthesiology differs from analgesia in that the pain relief in the former is usually a result of loss of consciousness rather than decreased nervous system activity as is the case in the latter. Due to the invasive and potentially life-threatening nature of this medical specialty, medical doctors who are specifically trained in anesthesiology oversee all duties performed by a nurse anesthetist or anesthesiology assistant.
Anesthesiology assistant programs are available at Nova South Eastern University in Florida, University of Missouri, Emory, and South University located in Georgia, as well as Case Western University in Ohio. These programs exist in states that allow the employment of AAs in health care. The District of Columbia is also among the ever-increasing list of states possessing the ability for AA licensing.
Although the specifics of anesthesiology assistant programs may vary depending on the program, most generally follow the same educational guidelines and requirements for the completion of this master's degree. One defined factor of AAs is that they may have had little or no patient experience prior to school, whereas nurse anesthetists generally have obtained nursing degrees and functioned as nurses in medical settings. Experience is valuable in increasing the chances of admission into an anesthesiology assistant program, however, as programs are highly selective in favor of candidates with medical knowledge.
The manner in which these programs differ is often nominal. Accredited programs generally require the completion of the program, at least 60 university-level credits beyond the program, which can be satisfied with a bachelor's degree, and the passing of a certification exam in three attempts or less. In addition to this, most programs require the candidate to have completed a satisfactory level of training in advanced cardiac life support. Anesthesiology assistant programs strive to properly prepare their students to exceed the described job responsibilities. For those interested in pursuing this career, it is important to frequently check on program status due to the expansive nature of this medical specialty.
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