Working under the supervision of a licensed anesthesiologist, anesthetist assistants perform a number of duties related to patient evaluation, monitoring, and medication administration before, during, and after surgical procedures. He or she works closely with other members of the health care and anesthesiology team to ensure optimal care of patients. Similar to other medical professions, anesthetist assistants often work evenings, weekends, and on-call hours.
Prior to a surgical procedure, anesthetist assistants often visit with patients and may obtain or review complete medical histories. This history commonly includes a list of current prescription and non-prescription medications, some of which might interfere with the anesthesia. Duties might also include performing physical examinations and ensuring completion of appropriate labs. Assistants often answer patient questions and provide information about anesthesiology procedures. Conferring with the anesthesiologist, assistants determine the required anesthetic medications, dosages, and method of administration.
In the operating room, anesthetist assistants often insert intravenous devices for medication delivery. Under the direction of licensed physicians, assistants administer regional and local anesthetic agents, which may include nerve blocks and spinal epidurals. After sedation administration, assistants maintain patient's airway and record and monitor the patient's vital signs. These health care professionals may also be responsible for monitoring electrolyte and fluid balance along with levels of blood loss. In the event of an emergency, assistants aid physicians in performing appropriate resuscitation measures.
Post-operative duties often include administration of anesthesia reversing medications. Anesthetist assistants continue to monitor patients during recovery, assessing the patient's level of consciousness and responsiveness while evaluating for possible adverse reactions. Assistants document information and writing progress notes pertaining to patient status. An anesthetist assistant often provides training to other medical staff in the operation of monitoring equipment or other subjects depending on the assistant's area of expertise. Some may assume managerial positions, overseeing employees, equipment, and supplies.
Anesthetist assistants require a Master of Science degree from an approved anesthetist assistant program. Students need not have prior medical training, but the requirements of the 24 month program generally include a Bachelor of Science degree and completion of prerequisite coursework. Anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry and physics are some of the science courses that students must complete before acceptance into the program. Upon completion of a master's degree, students work under the supervision of a licensed anesthesiologist without certification or acquire certification by passing a medical board examination.
Similar to an anesthetist assistant, becoming a nurse anesthetist requires completion of a Master of Science program specializing in anesthesiology. Prerequisites include state licensing as a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science degree. Nurse anesthetist programs generally require 24 to 36 months of study. Upon completion of the master's program, nurses may also acquire certification by passing board exams. Each medical professional must also complete 40 hours of continuing education for recertification every two years.
Not every state recognizes or allows employment of anesthetist assistants, and anesthetist assistant web sites often provide information about the different states. The field offers a variety of options, including employment at community hospitals in general, specialized, and outpatient surgeries. Assistants might also work in private pain clinics. Anesthetist assistants acquire experience and knowledge with patients of all ages, allowing them to work in pediatrics, obstetrics, and geriatrics.