Solving the impending anesthesiologist shortage — ABC's CEO Tony Mira has the answer

Anesthesiology is facing a physician shortage as the workforce ages and surgical demand increases. Anesthesia Business Consultants CEO Tony Mira penned a column suggesting practices use anesthesiologist assistants to help meet needs.

Here's what you should know:

1. AAs can practice in several states, and while reimbursement varies from that of CRNAs, AAs could be the answer to weathering this shortage.

2. There are approximately 1,700 AAs certified throughout the U.S.

3. AAs must have their bachelor's degree and they must complete a graduate program. AAs also must receive training in the delivery and maintenance of anesthesia care and in patient monitoring.

4. In the U.S., there are 12 AA education programs. They all offer master's degrees. Ninety-seven percent of all practicing AAs have their master's degree.

5. AAs have the same responsibilities CRNAs have; however, AAs cannot practice independently nor can they practice in any other specialty. All AAs need anesthesiologist supervision.

6. American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants Director of State Affairs Jeremy Betts said to Mr. Mira, that AAs are in high demand.

"In states where AAs have been licensed for more than five years, AAs and other anesthetists work nearly interchangeably within the physician-led anesthesia care team to meet the needs of growing anesthesia practices." Mr. Betts said.

7. The American Society of Anesthesiologists supports AA practice authorization throughout the U.S. They also recommend the inclusion of AAs in a care team.

8. Although the jury is still out on AAs as a form of physician extenders in practices, Mr. Mira contends that as competition tightens around anesthesiology, "AAs are an option worth knowing more about."

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