Is There an Answer to the Anesthesia Provider Staffing Shortage?
A critical shortage of anesthesia providers has made a significant impact on staffing within surgical facilities throughout the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report indicated a national nurse anesthetist’s shortage of more than 5,000 throughout the United States. The study also showed that nurse anesthesia educational programs alone would need to produce close to 2,000 graduates annually to meet societal nurse anesthesia demands by the year 2010. Also contributing to the overall decline in CRNA numbers is the increasing number of CRNA’s who are retiring paired with decreasing graduation rates from nurse anesthesia programs. As the escalating numbers of surgical procedures requiring anesthesia have increased, the need for anesthesia providers has grown exponentially. "We are truly in the midst of an anesthesia provider staffing shortage," said Taylor Shane, financial officer of AnestaWeb, Inc. "The answer to this shortage is for Universities to provide more anesthesia programs and to take a close look at the Anesthesiologist Assistant profession. The Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA) will ultimately help meet the ever growing staffing shortages along with CRNA’s by providing quality anesthesia care with reduced expense to insurance companies and patients." Although Anesthesiologist Assistant’s have been practicing safely for over 30 years, they are advancing considerably as legislation is redefining their role as physician assistant specialists. The Anesthesiologist Assistant participates actively in outpatient and inpatient care, operating rooms, recovery rooms, outpatient clinics, intensive care units and outpatient surgery centers. AA’s will continue to thrive as partners in the care of surgical and medical patients. They are valued and respected by Anesthesiologists and surgical colleagues and are compassionate, committed, dedicated members of the Anesthesia care team. AA’s will eventually be licensed in every state throughout the country. Currently AA’s practice in 16 states, Florida being the newest state to pass legislation on March 31, 2005. To become an AA the candidate must obtain a baccalaureate degree preferably in a science related field (but this is not mandatory). You must complete the medical prerequisites (English, General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, General physics, Calculus) with above average grades. Once accepted into the Anesthesiologist Assistant program, the candidate will train for approx. 27 months, earn a Masters degree in science and eventually take the Certifying Examination for Anesthesiologist Assistants. The Anesthesiologist Assistant’s earning potential is comparable to CRNA’s with average earnings of 95,000 to 150,000 annually. Nova Southeastern University is the first educational facility in Florida to announce their new Anesthesiologist Assistant program, which is now registering students for their June 2006 program. The shortage of anesthesia providers in the marketplace guarantees job opportunities. With healthcare facilities and hospitals scrutinizing their bottom lines, Anesthesiologist Assistant’s offer an attractive option for providing anesthesia care.
Christopher Green is President of AnestaWeb, Inc. For more information, e-mail AnesthesiaAssistant@yahoo.com or visit www.AnesthesiaAssistant.com.