CAAs were born from a need of qualified anesthesia professionals. In the 60 years since, they've become integral parts of the patient journey in hospitals around America.
Read about the entire story below, or download our professional overview.
History of CAAs
In the early 1960s, the anesthesiology profession faced a challenge. A staffing shortage and increasing complexity in anesthesia and surgery required a new perspective.
Three physician anesthesiologists (Drs. Gravenstein, Steinhaus, and Volpitto) set out to find a solution. They proposed a new member of the anesthesia care team. And so the CAA profession was born.
What do CAAs do?
CAAs are highly-skilled medical professionals who help plan and deliver anesthesia care within the Anesthesia Care Team (ACT). The ACT builds a patient-centric team that provides each patient with the safest model of care. Within the ACT, CAAs work as physician extenders who deliver a variety of care techniques under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. CAA responsibilities include:
Elicit a pre-anesthesia health history and perform a physical examination
Establish patient monitoring devices and intravenous access
Assist in the application and interpretation of advanced monitoring techniques such as pulmonary artery catheterization or echocardiography
Assist in the induction, maintenance, and emergence of a patient's anesthetic
Secure the patient's airway through a mask, endotracheal tube, or laryngeal mask airway
Interpret and record the patient's physiological and pharmacological status
Provide continuity of care into and during the post-operative period
CAAs complete a premedical education and achieve a master's degree from an accredited anesthesia program. Their educational background makes CAAs uniquely proficient in contemporary patient monitoring and interpretation of data in all anesthesia care environments. They may also perform and maintain regional anesthesia or respond to life-threatening situations with the cardiopulmonary resuscitation team.
Educational Program Requirements
An accredited anesthesiologist assistant educational program must be supported by an anesthesiology department of a medical school that is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or its equivalent. The Anesthesiology department must have the educational resources internally or through educational affiliates that would qualify it to meet the criteria of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), or its equivalent, for sponsorship of an anesthesiology residency program.
Although the standards recognize the importance of a basic science education within a clinically-oriented academic setting, it is also recognized that some of the supervised clinical practice components of the curriculum may be carried out in affiliated community hospitals that have the appropriate affiliation agreements specifying the requisite teaching faculty and staffing ratios for the clinical experience.
The CAA curriculum is based on an advanced graduate degree model and requires at least two full academic years. The current programs are 24 to 28 months. Graduates from all CAA educational programs earn a Master’s Degree.
Case Western Reserve University
Medical College of Wisconsin
Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED)*
Nova Southeastern University
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
West Palm Beach, FL
University of Colorado
University of Missouri - Kansas City
Kansas City, MO
*AAA EP Provisional Program: Refer to AAAEP for more information.
**Interested in a new program? Complete this form from NCCAA.
CAAs can currently practice in 17 states. Our goal is to achieve the right in practice in all 50 states.
The National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) was founded in July 1989 to develop and administer the certification process for CAAs in the United States. The NCCAA consists of commissioners representing the ASA and the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) and includes physician and CAA members (at-large).
Graduates or senior students in the last semester of a CAAHEP accredited CAA educational program may apply for initial certification. Such a professional distinction is awarded to an AA who has successfully completed the Certifying Examination for Anesthesiologist Assistants administered by NCCAA in collaboration with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).
NCCAA maintains a database of Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants for verification of individual practitioners. Hospitals, practice groups, state boards and others may verify an individual CAA’s certification via a printed verification statement posted on the Verify Certification page of the NCCAA's website.
CAAs are granted a time-limited certificate after passing the initial examination. They submit documentation to NCCAA every two years after completing 40 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME). In addition, every six years, the practitioner must pass the examination for Continued Demonstration of Qualifications (CDQ).
The CDQ examination was first administered in 1998, making CAAs the first anesthesia profession to require passage of a written examination as part of the recertification process. Failure to meet any of the above CME or examination requirements results in withdrawal of the CAA’s certification.