In the United States of America, anesthesiologists are doctors (M.D. or D.O.) who have chosen to specialize in anesthesiology. The majority of anesthesiologists in the United States have completed a four year undergraduate college degree, including pre-med requirements. Like other physicians, anesthesiologists complete four years of medical school. However, a few medical schools offer a six year program following high school. (In such programs, the first two years fulfill the pre-med requirements, and the following four years are the traditional medical education.)
An anesthesiologist is a physician; a highly trained medical specialist who makes anesthesia related medical decisions and is responsible for the safety and well being of the patient. This includes maintaining the patient in a state of controlled unconsciousness, providing pain relief and monitoring the patient's critical life functions as they are affected throughout surgical, obstetrical or other medical procedures.
The anesthesiologist's role extends beyond the operating room. The anesthesiologist is responsible for the preoperative assessment of the patient, making medical judgments about the best anesthesia plan for that individual based on his or her current health, what medications they are taking, the type of surgery, etc. The anesthesiologist is also responsible for the well being of the patient postoperatively while the person emerges from the effects of the anesthesia. Additionally anesthesiologists help stabilize critically ill or injured patients, in intensive care units. They are often involved in the management of acute postoperative pain, chronic and cancer pain; in cardiac and respiratory resuscitation; in blood transfusion therapies; and in respiratory therapy.
As long as there is a demand for surgery and relief from pain, there will be a need for qualified anesthesiologists. The number of surgeries has been on the rise, totaling more than 40 million a year, almost evenly split between hospitals and outpatient facilities.
Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAs) are highly skilled health professionals who work under the direction of licensed anesthesiologists to implement anesthesia care plans. AAs work exclusively within the anesthesia care team environment as described by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. An AA may not practice outside the field of anesthesia or apart from the supervision of an anesthesiologist.
The specific job descriptions and duties of AAs may differ according to local practice. State law or board of medicine regulations or guidelines may further define the job descriptions of AAs. The constant ingredient, no matter what the local regulation, is that AAs always practice under the medical direction of a qualified anesthesiologist.
Anesthesiologist assistants and certified registered nurse anesthetists are both defined as "non-physician anesthetists" within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services section of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The professional organization for AAs is the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) www.anesthetist.org.
An Anesthesia Technician (AT) is not a doctor or a nurse. The role of the AT is to support the work done by the professional anesthesia personnel. ATs are responsible for managing the anesthesia equipment and for its proper maintenance.
Depending on individual expertise and training, the task of the AT, Certified Anesthesia Technician (Cer.A.T.) and Certified Anesthesia Technologist (Cer.A.T.T.) may include equipment maintenance and servicing such as cleaning, sterilizing, assembling, calibrating and testing, troubleshooting, requisitioning and recording of inspections and maintenance. They may operate a variety of mechanical, pneumatic and electronic equipment used to monitor, evaluate and manage the patient undergoing anesthesia.
The scope of practice and duties assigned to an AT will vary from state to state and from one facility to another. Most ATs are employed at larger acute care hospitals, particularly in trauma, transplant, and teaching facilities, but can also be found in outpatient surgery clinics.
The preferred entry-level education for an AT is a high school diploma or GED. In some cases a two year degree in health care may be required.
The responsibilities of ATs have increased over the years, and the trend seems to favor increased demand for their specialized skills, along with greater awareness of anesthesia technology as a career. According to the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT) www.asatt.org, job opportunities are anticipated to grow in the area of anesthesiology as the geriatric population increases and health care delivery in America evolves and changes.
Certified Anesthesia Technician
The Certified Anesthesia Technician (Cer.A.T.) is a technician who has successfully completed the examination requirements established by the ASATT. The Cer.A.T. is an allied health care professional who is an essential member of the anesthesia patient care team, as observed by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN). The Cer.A.T. performs duties under the supervision of the licensed anesthesia care providers.
Certified Anesthesia Technologist
A Certified Anesthesia Technologist (Cer.A.T.T.) is a technician who has successfully completed both the Certified Anesthesia Technician and Technologist Examinations per the requirements established by the ASATT. The Cer.A.T.T. is distinguished from the Cer.A.T. by additional levels of training and experience.
The official recognition for Anesthesia Technologists is the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT) national certification. This certification is currently not required by any states, but some employers require it either prior to or within two years of hire.