Anesthesiologist Assistants


Exploring this Job

A good way to learn more about the health care field is to volunteer at a local hospital, clinic, or nursing home. You will have the opportunity to work with other health care professionals and patients and see if this field matches your interests. Visit the Web sites of professional associations for anesthesiologists and assistants to learn more about the field and the latest developments. Set up informational interviews with people working in the field to ask questions about the profession. Speak with a career adviser to learn about anesthesiology assistant requirements and opportunities.

The Job

Anesthesiologist assistants help anesthesiologists ensure that a patient remains stable, uninjured, and feels no pain while undergoing a medical procedure. Anesthesiologists and assistants deal mainly in the area of surgery but also oversee the administration of anesthetics during other medical procedures, and if needed, during childbirth.

Anesthesiologist assistants help to take a patient's medical history and perform exams. They work closely with the anesthesiologist in determining the best form of anesthesia for the patient, based on the patient's medical problems and the type of surgery required. Anesthesiologist assistants have an understanding of surgical procedures, physiology, pharmacology, and critical care.

Anesthesiologist assistants test and calibrate anesthesiology equipment and help prepare patients for medical procedures. The anesthesiologist gives the patient an anesthetic prior to the operation, to make the patient unconscious and numb to pain. In some instances the anesthesiologist assistant may administer anesthesia but only under the direct supervision of an anesthesiologist. The anesthesia that is administered may be only regional or local, which means it numbs only the part of the body being operated on. More complex cases may require special equipment such as blood-warming devices. Monitoring equipment and intravenous lines and breathing tubes are used in surgeries. Anesthesiologists make sure the anesthesia mask is secure and allows for a proper airway. Anesthesiologists and assistants monitor patients' heart rates, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing throughout the procedure. In an emergency situation, anesthesiologists and assistants are also part of the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) team.

Anesthesiologist assistants also spend time with patients before and after surgery. When meeting the patient beforehand, anesthesiologists and assistants explain the kind of anesthesia to be used and answer any questions. They aim to get to know the patient before surgery and ease any anxieties the patient may have.

Anesthesiologist assistants may work in different areas, such as pediatric anesthesia, respiratory therapy, critical care, and cardiovascular anesthesia. They often work in teams, with anesthesiology residents and nurse anesthetists. The anesthesiologist  delegates responsibilities to these care team members.

Work pressure varies in the anesthesiology field depending on the situation. For example, anesthesiologists and assistants must make fast decisions and act quickly during emergency medical cases, whereas other situations will allow for careful planning and time to study a patient's medical history and consult with other surgeons. Many anesthesiologist assistants work in hospitals; some work in individual or group practices.