Anesthesia Assistant Jobs and Career Guide

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Position Company Location Posted
Lecturer in Anesthesia
APPLY
Indiana UniversityIndiana, United States29/09/2021
Lecturer in Anesthesia
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Indiana UniversityIndiana, United States21/01/2022
Faculty, Pediatric Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine
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Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore, Maryland, United States14/04/2022
Anesthesia Emergency Clinician
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Animal Medical CenterNew York, New York, United States06/04/2022
Anesthesia Emergency Clinician
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Animal Medical CenterNew York, New York, United States06/04/2022
Physician, Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Medicine
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Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore, Maryland, United States14/04/2022
Anesthesia Tech (FT - Days / 8's) Soin Medical
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Kettering Health NetworkBeavercreek, Ohio, United States22/05/2022
Division Chief of Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Medicine
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Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore, Maryland, United States14/04/2022
Chief, Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant
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Medical College of WisconsinMilwaukee, Wisconsin, United States08/04/2022
General Anesthesiologist
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Department of Anesthesiology at the Medical College of WisconsinMilwaukee, Wisconsin, United States04/05/2022

What is an Anesthesia Assistant?

Anesthesia Assistants are responsible for a variety of patient care tasks. They work as a part of a care team to provide medical treatment to patients who require anesthesia.

Besides being an integral part of a healthcare team Anesthesia Assistants are well-paid and in high demand. Those in the field report a healthy work/life balance as well.

Check out the rest of the guide to learn more about being an Anesthesia Assistant and what it takes to be a part of this profession.

What Does an Anesthesia Assistant Do?

The Anesthesia Assistant career was created in the 1960s. This was when the field of anesthesiology was becoming more complicated. At the same time, there was a massive medical staffing shortage.

To alleviate the issues they and their patients were facing, three Anesthesiologists devised a solution: adding a new kind of medical professional to the anesthetic care team. And, the Anesthesia Assistant was born.

Since their inception, Anesthesia Assistants became an important part of a patient’s anesthesia care team. Working alongside Nurse Anesthetists, Anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals. Anesthesia Assistants help prepare a patient before they receive anesthesia.

Under the guidance of a licensed Anesthesiologist, Anesthesia Assistants gather vital information that assists in the creation of the patient’s treatment plan. Their role is essentially being an extension of the Anesthesiologist.

Before a procedure, these non-physician medical professionals will interview patients to learn their medical health history. This lets the care team know which type of anesthesia works best with the patient’s body.

During their operation, Anesthesia Assistants administer the anesthesia and monitor the medication. If needed, they are tasked with adjusting the dose. They may also conduct laboratory work, draw blood, and complete other medical tests.

When their patient has gotten out of their surgery, Anesthesia Assistants make rounds to check on them as they recover from their procedure. They monitor the person’s vitals to ensure they remain stable.

Because they have such a specialized role, Anesthesia Assistants work exclusively as a part of the anesthesia care team.

Anesthesia Assistants have similar duties as Nurse Anesthetists but serve a distinct role. While a Nurse Anesthetist can work independently of the Anesthesiologist (their level of independence depends on the laws of the state where they’re licensed to practice), an Anesthesia Assistant can’t. The Anesthesiologist is legally responsible for them.

What is an Anesthesia Assistant Responsible For?

There is a major misconception about what an Anesthesia Assistant does. Because they have the word “assistant” in their job title, some assume they are mainly responsible for administrative duties. Being an Anesthesia Assistant is much more than that.

An Anesthesia Assistant is responsible for tasks that help keep a patient stable and safe. Their work improves the chance of a successful health outcome.

Their part of an anesthesia care team is working with the Anesthesiologist to treat the patient. Anesthesia Assistants are extensions of their specialized doctor counterpart.

Their duties are comprised of a variety of patient care tasks that ensure the highest level of patient care and safety.

At work, an Anesthesia Assistant can expect to:

  • Take a patient’s medical history
  • Perform a pre-surgical physical exam on the patient to make sure the person is receiving the best kind of anesthesia for their operation
  • Test and calibrate the anesthesia delivery systems and monitor devices — based on what their Anesthesiologist suggested
  • Administer and analyze any advanced monitoring techniques, including pulmonary artery catheterization, echocardiography, evoked potentials, and electroencephalographic spectral analysis
  • Give the patient their anesthesia and monitor its effectiveness throughout the operation; this includes checking the patient’s vitals
  • Conduct any diagnostic and laboratory tests deemed necessary during the surgery; such as drawing blood
  • Help the patient’s post-surgical recovery
  • Complete care tasks as needed in an emergency care unit and within a pain clinic
  • During a critical care situation, providing airway management for the patient through a mask, endotracheal tube, or laryngeal mask airway
  • Conduct research and provide education and clinical instruction to students and others
  • Work on other administrative tasks as requested

Being an Anesthesia Assistant is a role with a variety of patient care tasks and responsibilities. Every day differs based on the types of cases they’ll be working. At the end of their shift, they get to leave their work at work, creating a strong work/life balance.

Where Does an Anesthesia Assistant Work?

The most common places for Anesthesia Assistants to work are within a hospital or for a larger healthcare system. They can also be found in a pain clinic or an outpatient surgery center. Some Anesthesia Assistants even work in dental offices.

Anywhere that requires anesthesia, will likely have the need of an Anesthesia Assistant.

They generally work a regular schedule — some Anesthesia Assistants reported working four 10-hour shifts, while others had 12-hour shifts. There is often an option to volunteer for on-call, evening, or weekend shifts.

What Career Options are Available to an Anesthesia Assistant?

Pursuing this medical specialty means committing to working within the field of anesthesia as an Anesthesia Assistant. Because the Anesthesia Assistant training is so specific to their subset of healthcare, people who pursue this will only be able to have this kind of job.

What Anesthesia Assistants can control is which kind of anesthesia they’d like to practice. There are hundreds of types of anesthesia used in a variety of care settings.

Here are the most common types of anesthesia specialties for Anesthesia Assistants:

  • Cardiac anesthesia: In cardiac anesthesia, Anesthesia Assistants help treat patients undergoing cardiac operations and other heart-based medical procedures. They specialize in heart-specific anesthesia.
  • Pediatric anesthesia: Anesthesia Assistants in the pediatric unit care for children who need anesthesia for an operation or pain relief. Besides understanding how to properly administer anesthesia to children, they are also comfortable working with kids. These young patients are often extra nervous before an operation and having a gentle, empathetic Anesthesia Assistant can help them feel better before their surgery.
  • Neuroanesthesia: Neuroanesthesia is focused on treating patients who need brain surgery. In this specialty, Anesthesia Assistants understand how to monitor and maintain their patient’s brain pressure and metabolism during and after a surgery.
  • Obstetric anesthesia: Within this anesthesia subset, Anesthesia Assistants work with people giving birth. They are a part of a larger medical team, which includes the obstetrician, perinatologist, midwife, neonatologist, and labor and delivery nurse.
  • Hospice and palliative care anesthesia: An important part of anesthesia is giving pain relief to patients who desperately need it, like those in hospice and palliative care. This department is a difficult one and takes a special kind of person to do this type of work.

Basically, if it’s a type of medicine that requires anesthesia, an Anesthesia Assistant will be able to work within it.

What Degree is Required to Become an Anesthesia Assistant? What Do They Study?

Being an Anesthesia Assistant starts by completing a four-year bachelor’s degree. Prospective Anesthesia Assistants often major in biology, physics, math, or chemistry.

Next, students will need to take either the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam). Depending on their graduate school, the college will require one of these exams. Taking the MCAT means getting through a nearly eight-hour exam, while the GRE is only three hours and forty-five minutes.

Once they’ve chosen the correct standardized test and successfully passed it, it’s time to complete a two-year master’s Anesthesia Assistant program where they will learn more about physiology, pharmacology, anatomy, and biochemistry.

Prospective Anesthesia Assistants also need to complete specialized anesthesia training. This will include 600 hours of classroom and lab assignments, 2,000 hours of clinical work, and 63 didactic hours.

Before enrolling in an anesthesia program, students should ensure their program of choice is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The CAAHEP-approved program will also work closely with a medical school.

During their clinical work, Anesthesia Assistants will learn to administer 600 types of anesthesia and the reality of being a part of a medical team. Clinical training is imperative for preparing Anesthesia Assistants for their real-life work.

What Skills are Required for an Anesthesia Assistant?

Because their work relies so much on receiving instructions from others, it’s imperative that an Anesthesia Assistant is an excellent listener, strong communicator, and a patient person.

They receive a bevy of complicated directions. If there’s something that doesn’t make sense, they should be comfortable asking questions.

Anesthesia Assistants should also be accustomed to working in stressful environments. Things can quickly change for a patient during surgery, and they must be prepared to leap into action during those moments.

How Much Money Does an Anesthesia Assistant Earn?

Anesthesia Assistants earn on average between $135,799 and $205,700 on a yearly basis. Entry level, they are expected to make about $53,000 annually.

Their salary fluctuates based on how many years they’ve spent in the profession, earning additional certifications, and completing continuing education to learn new medical skills.

Where are Anesthesia Assistants in Demand?

Anesthesia Assistants are currently an in-demand profession. By 2026, this healthcare field is expected to grow by more than 37%.

What Anesthesia Assistants do is highly skilled and specialized — and something that most medical procedures require — meaning there is plenty of need for their career.

One caveat of going into this specific field is Anesthesia Assistants are only allowed to practice in certain states. Because this is a newer career, it still isn’t recognized in every state’s laws. Medical and government in-fighting as well as plenty of bureaucracy only add to the difficulty of the situation.

With the proper license, Anesthesia Assistants can practice in:

  • Alabama
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico (university hospital settings)
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont

Anesthesia Assistants can also practice in the following states, but must only complete tasks authorized by a supervising Anesthesiologist:

  • Colorado
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

States are added and removed from the list as laws change on a state-by-state basis.

The states with the highest need for Anesthesia Assistants are:

  1. Texas: 7,150 Anesthesia Assistant jobs
  2. Florida: 5,740 Anesthesia Assistant jobs
  3. Michigan: 4,780 Anesthesia Assistant jobs