Master of Science in Anesthesia

Overview of the Profession


What is an Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA)?

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 (ASA). 

All AAs possess a premedical background, a baccalaureate degree, and also complete a comprehensive didactic and clinical program at the graduate school level.  AAs are trained extensively in the delivery and maintenance of quality anesthesia care as well as advanced patient monitoring techniques.

Typical AA Job descriptions include:

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 AA job description.

  • MSA_Profession1Making the initial approach to a patient of any age in any setting to obtain an appropriate and accurate pre-anesthetic health history, perform an appropriate physical examination and record pertinent data
  • Performing or assisting in the conduct of diagnostic laboratory and related studies as appropriate, such as drawing arterial and venous blood samples
  • Establishing non-invasive and invasive routine monitoring modalities
  • Assisting in the application and interpretation of advanced monitoring techniques such as pulmonary artery catheterization, electroencephalographic spectral analysis, echocardiography and evoked potentials
  • Assisting in the induction, maintaining and altering anesthesia levels, administering adjunctive treatment and providing continuity of anesthetic care into and during the post-operative recovery period
  • dsc_7254bAssisting in the use of advanced life support techniques, such as high frequency ventilation and intra-arterial cardiovascular assist devices
  • Assisting in making post-anesthesia patient rounds
  • Performing evaluation and treatment procedures essential to responding to life-threatening situations, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, on the basis of established protocols (basic life support, advance cardiac life support, and pediatric advanced life support)
  • Assisting in the performance of duties in intensive care units, pain clinics and other settings, as appropriate
  • Training and supervising personnel in the calibration, trouble shooting and use of patient monitors
  • Performing delegated administrative duties in an anesthesiology practice
  • Assisting in clinical instruction
Employment characteristics

Anesthesiologist assistants work as members of the anesthesia care team in any location where they may be appropriately directed by legally responsible anesthesiologists. The AAs most often work within organizations that also employ nurse anesthetists, and their responsibilities are identical. Experience to date has been that AAs are most commonly employed in larger facilities that perform procedures such as cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, transplant surgery, and trauma care, given the training in extensive patient monitoring devices and complex patients and procedures emphasized in AA educational programs. However, AAs are used in hospitals of all sizes and assist anesthesiologists in a variety of settings and for a wide range of procedures. Starting salaries for recent graduates range from $120,000 to $140,000 for the 40-hour work week plus benefits and consideration of on-call activity.