|ANESTHESIOLOGIST ASSISTANT EDUCATIONAL FACTS
|• Eight educational programs for Anesthesiologist Assistants,
respectively located at:
• Admission to Anesthesia Assistant programs: Anesthesiologist Assistant educational
programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education
Programs (CAAHEP), located in Chicago, Illinois.
The CAAHEP Standards and Guidelines for accredited
Anesthesiologist Assistant educational programs state that the program “must build upon a pre-
professional study of the sciences that would qualify the student to pursue a post baccalaureate
degree in medicine, dentistry, or one of the basic medical sciences.” Many types of majors are
acceptable for admission.
• Applicants to Emory and South University must take the GRE; taking the
MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) examination is optional. Case
Western requires applicants to take the MCAT examination; it won’t accept
any other test. Case Western requires a minimum GPA of 2.75; it claims
entering average GPAs range from 3.2 to 3.4.
• Emory program: This program normally consists of seven consecutive
semesters, i.e., 27 months. Students may be able to receive transfer credit
for previous graduate courses in anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. In
addition, Emory now offers an admissions track for primary care certified
physician assistants (PA-Cs) with master’s degrees that allows Anesthesiologist
Assistant program completion in five consecutive semesters. Eligibility requirements
include the ability to receive transfer credit for prior clinical work and for master’s-level
courses in human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and clinical methods.
• Emory program: During the first three semesters, clinical activities are
interspersed with classroom and lab work. The fourth semester includes
intermediate clinical activity interspersed with classroom and lab work.
Semesters five through seven are mainly clinical rotations in several areas of
anesthesia practice. In the past, Emory has said that students learn to
administer all types of anesthesia, except regional anesthesia. It also stated
that although the program provides the anatomic and physiologic basis of
regional anesthesia and students gain clinical experience managing patients
who have received regional anesthesia, the program does not provide clinical
instruction in the administration of regional anesthesia. Emory program
materials from 2004 stated that if an employer wants an Emory graduate to
administer regional anesthesia, the anesthesiologist may train the graduate in
regional techniques and request that privileges be granted, as necessary,
based upon the anesthesiologist's documentation of "competence." This is
presumably a reference to the Anesthesiologist Assistant's competence, rather
than the anesthesiologist's.
• South University: This program is 28
continuous months (nine academic quarters).
• South University’s program consists of classroom, laboratory, and clinical
components. The South University Web site does not appear to specify the
types of anesthesia that will be taught in clinical training.
• Case Western materials state that during their last three semesters, students
complete month-long rotations in all subspecialties of anesthesiology,
including ambulatory surgery, burns and trauma, cardiothoracic surgery,
general surgery, neurosurgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, and surgical intensive
• Case Western: This program is two years long, consisting of six semesters of
classroom and clinical instruction.
Emory also states that it has students go through clinical rotations
in all subspecialty areas of anesthesia practice, such as pediatrics and
• Case Western’s program materials say clinical training focuses on all types of
anesthesia, including general, epidural, spinal and peripheral nerve blockade.
South University says its clinical training focuses on all
subspecialty areas of anesthesia, including general surgery, pediatrics,
obstetrics and gynecology, otolaryngology, orthopedics, neurosurgery,
ophthalmology, genito-urinary surgery, vascular surgery, cardiac surgery,
thoracic surgery, transplantation, trauma, and ambulatory.
• The Case Western Web site states that salaries "vary depending on the
experience of the individual and the regional cost of living." The Web site
says that the average starting salary for a newly graduated Anesthesia Assistant "is
approximately $90,000 for a 40-hour work week plus benefits and
consideration of on-call activity." The site also says that an increase of
"approximately 5 to 15% should be expected after the first 1 to 2 years post
graduation." (A 15 percent increase in salary would mean that Anesthesiologist Assistants with one
to two years of experience would be earning an average of $103,500.)
Finally, the Web site states that Anesthesiologist Assistant salaries "are comparable to
compensation paid to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) nationally."
• The Association for Anesthesiologist Assistant Education (AAAE) is a
sponsoring organization of the CAAHEP. Its Web site is: www.aaaehq.org.
This organization, consisting of anesthesiologists, participates in the Anesthesiologist
Assistant program accreditation process. The American Society of Anesthesiologists
(ASA) appoints a liaison to the AAAE. The Association for Anesthesiologist Assistant Education
states that it has a “threefold vision,” including:
(1) “Increased capacity for Anesthesiologist Assistant Education”;
(2)“Anesthesiologist- Directed Patient Care when given by Non-physician
(3) “Favorable National and State Regulations Which Enable
Practice Groups to Employ Anesthesiologist Assistants.”
• Graduates of an accredited Anesthesia Assistant program or Anesthesia Assistant programs
eligible for accreditation may take a national certification examination sponsored by the
National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA), located in Atlanta.
Graduates who pass the exam are designated Anesthesiologist Assistant -- Certified (AA-C).
Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants must submit continuing education credits biennially (every two years)
for certification renewal and must successfully complete a “Continued Demonstration of
Qualifications” examination every six years.
• Anesthesia Assistant program students may also take the NCCAA certification examination up
to 180 days before graduation. The NCCAA rules and regulations state, "The
candidate must be a student in good standing in a formal educational
program … who will be graduated from that educational program within 180
days immediately following the date of the Certifying Examination." Scores
can be released immediately after the NCCAA has received documentation of
the student's graduation.
Number of Anesthesiologist Assistants (Anesthesia Assistants)
• Emory: In 1999, the Emory Web site said that as of August 1996, there were
370 graduates from Emory from 26 classes, with the first class graduating in
1971. In 2005, the Web site said that the current program graduates 30 Anesthesiologist
Assistants in each Emory class.
• Emory: In 2005, the Emory Web site said about 10 percent of its graduates
have gone on to medical school, most as anesthesiology residents.
• Case Western: This program began in 1969. For many years, the program
only graduated a handful of students every year. It now reports that it has 20
to 28 students enrolled in the program at any given time, with each class
having from 10 to 14 students.
• South University: A 2005 Georgia Society of Anesthesiologists’ publication
stated that this program, which began in 2004, has 11 students enrolled in the
first class with plans to accept 20 students in 2005 and approximately 30
students a year in the future.
• The 2004 Emory Web site said that there are approximately 545 Anesthesiologist
Assistant "graduates delivering anesthesia under the direction of a qualified
anesthesiologist." It is unclear whether the Web site was referring to Emory
graduates only, or to all practicing Anesthesiologist Assistants. A 2005 Georgia Society of
Anesthesiologists’ publication stated that current data reflect a total of 635
Anesthesia Assistants practicing with anesthesiologists -- 505 have graduated from Emory and
130 have graduated from Case Western.
• The March 2003 ASA Newsletter reported that there are fewer than 600
practicing Anesthesiologist Assistants. (This number will increase dramatically)
Distinguishing Between Anesthesiologist Assistants and Physician Assistants
• Most Anesthesiologist Assistants are not educated, trained, or certified as Physician Assistants (PAs).
The Emory Anesthesiologist Assistant program, however, has an admissions track for
primary care PA-Cs with master’s degrees that will allow them to complete
the Emory Anesthesia Assistant program on an expedited schedule.
• Physician Assistants have a generalist education and often move among specialties; Anesthesia
Assistants don’t have a generalist education and are only trained to deliver anesthesia
care as part of the "anesthesia care team" under anesthesiologist direction.
Physician Assistants attend one of over 130 accredited PA educational programs. Anesthesiologist
Assistants attend one of only a few Anesthesia Assistant programs. (New Anesthesiologist Assistant
programs will be opening in all states in the U.S.A.)
• Physician Assistants and Anesthesiologist Assistants sit for different national certification
Physician Assistant exam:
This exam was developed by the National Commission on Certification of
Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
Anesthesiologist Assistant exam: This exam was developed by the
National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants(NCCAA).
• See the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) document:
"Physician Assistants and Anesthesiologists Assistants -- The Distinctions."
• The AAPA is opposed to states characterizing Anesthesia Assistants as a kind of Physician
• Approximately 40 Anesthesiologist Assistants have also been trained as Physician Assistants, and it’s
estimated that those 40 Physician Assistant/Anesthesia Assistants practice in about 18 states.43
Definition of Anesthesia
*Total or partial loss of sensation, especially tactile sensibility, induced by disease, injury, acupuncture, or
an anesthetic, such as chloroform or nitrous oxide.
* Local or general insensibility to pain with or without the loss of consciousness, induced by an anesthetic.
* A drug, administered for medical or surgical purposes, that induces partial or total loss of sensation and
may be topical, local, regional, or general, depending on the method of administration and area of the
[New Latin anaesthsia, from Greek anaisthsi, insensibility : an-, without ; see a-1 + aisthsis, feeling (from
aisthanesthai, aisth-, to feel; see au- in Indo-European roots).]
The following passage, written on November 21, 1846, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, a physician-poet and the
father of the Supreme Court justice of the same name, allows us to pinpoint the entry of anesthesia and
anesthetic into English:
"Every body wants to have a hand in a great discovery. All I will do is to give you a hint or two as to names or
the name to be applied to the state produced and the agent. The state should, I think, be called
'Anaesthesia' [from the Greek word anaisthsia, "lack of sensation"]. This signifies insensibility.... The
adjective will be 'Anaesthetic.' Thus we might say the state of Anaesthesia, or the anaesthetic state." This
citation is taken from a letter to William Thomas Green Morton, who in October of that year had
successfully demonstrated the use of ether at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Although anaesthesia is recorded in Nathan Bailey's Universal Etymological English Dictionary in 1721, it is
clear that Holmes really was responsible for its entry into the language. The Oxford English Dictionary has
several citations for anesthesia and anesthetic in 1847 and 1848, indicating that the words gained rapid
The American Heritage ® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Anesthesiologist Assistant Education:
When applying to an educational institution which offers the anesthesiologist assistant program
the applicants must have their required prerequisites (NSU reqiured prerequisites) but may have
college degrees in non-medical areas. Typically, applicants hold degrees in the sciences but this
is not mandatory.
All Anesthesiologist Assistant educational programs must be CAAHEP-accredited. Programs may
be found at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida - Emory University in
Atlanta, Georgia - Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio - South University in Savannah,
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