What is an Anesthesia Assistant

An Anesthesia Assistant (AA) is a specially trained, health professional who participates in the care of the stable surgical patient during general, regional, or conscious sedation anesthesia through medical directives under the supervision of the anesthesiologist.

The role of an Anesthesia Assistant within the profession of anesthesiology is relatively new. At this point there remains some variation in terms of training requirements as well as the actual description of responsibilities. Generally speaking, in Canada AAs have prior training as respiratory therapists or as registered nurses before undergoing additional training in anesthesia.

In an effort to refine and define the scope of activities and duties of a Anesthesia Assistant as a specialty field, members of the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists (CSRT), National Association of PeriAnesthesia Nurses of Canada (NAPANc), and National Alliance of Respiratory Therapy Regulatory Bodies (NARTRB) have collaborated in finalizing a document which outlines a framework of knowledge required of the field.

During training, an anesthesia assistant is expected to gain a working knowledge of: anesthesia pharmacology, anesthesia equipment, airway management, peri-operative evaluation, preoperative assessment, general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, post anesthesia care, and pain management.

Some of the roles an AA performs: Although provinces have differing regulations concerning the performance of certain roles by an AA, the most common roles include:

  • Providing technical support to Anesthesiologist for complex anesthesia equipment
  • Providing airway management assistance
  • Monitoring patient's hemodynamic status, blood, fluid and pharmacological therapy
  • Performing activities such as administration of anesthetic gases and medications, insertion and management of hemodynamic monitors, and management of anesthesia equipment. In addition the Anesthesia Assistant provides physiologic surveillance of the stable patient under general anesthesia, regional anesthesia and for procedural sedation. This provision of anesthesia care is under the direct supervision of the Anesthesiologist and under the authority of medical directives.

Written by:
Jane Tipping, Educational Consultant