What is a CAA?
Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants (CAAs) are highly skilled health professionals who work under the direction of licensed anesthesiologists to implement anesthesia care plans. CAAs work exclusively within the anesthesia care team environment as described by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).
All CAAs possess a premedical background, a baccalaureate degree, and must graduate from an accredited CAA program. This comprehensive didactic and clinical training fulfills the requirements for awarding CAAs a Masters degree, and all CAA programs have done so since 1987. CAAs are trained extensively in the delivery and maintenance of quality anesthesia care as well as advanced patient monitoring techniques. The goal of CAA education is to guide the transformation of qualified student applicants into competent health care practitioners who aspire to practice in the anesthesia care team.
Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants and certified registered nurse anesthetists are both defined as “non-physician anesthetists” within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services section of the Code of Federal Regulations.
What does the ASA Care Team Statement say about CAAs?
According to the ASA statement on the Anesthesia Care Team, anesthesia care personally performed or medically directed by an anesthesiologist constitutes the practice of medicine. Certain aspects of anesthesia care may be delegated to other properly trained and credentialed professionals. These professionals, medically directed by the anesthesiologist, comprise the Anesthesia Care Team.
The Care Team statement (last amended on October 18, 2006) says, “Such delegation and direction should be specifically defined by the anesthesiologist director of the Anesthesia Care Team and approved by the hospital medical staff. Although selected functions of overall anesthesia care may be delegated to appropriate members of the Anesthesia Care Team, responsibility and direction of the Anesthesia Care Team rests with the anesthesiologist.”
Members of the medically directed anesthesia care team may include anesthesiology residents as well as non-physicians such as certified anesthesiologist assistants and nurse anesthetists.
What is the scope of CAA clinical practice?
The scope of CAA clinical practice is generally the same as that of nurse anesthetists on the Anesthesia Care Team. Specifically, the local scope of practice of CAAs is usually defined by
- the medically directing anesthesiologist,
- the hospital credentialing body,
- the state’s board of medicine
- any applicable state statute or regulation.
States may also require a practice agreement between the sponsoring anesthesiologist and the CAAs who are medically directed.
For more information on the standards and guidelines for certified anesthesiologist assistants, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists website.