What is a Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant (CAA)?
A certified anesthesiologist assistant (CAA) is an integral, highly skilled member of an anesthesia care team. CAAs work under the direct supervision of an anesthesiologist and perform many key duties, including conducting preoperative physical exams, administering medications, evaluating and responding to life-threatening situations, setting up external and internal monitors, and implementing general and site-specific anesthetic techniques.
Like a physician assistant (PA) who works as a “physician extender,” a CAA allows an anesthesiologist to direct several cases at one time. However, unlike PAs, who handle a broad range of needs, CAAs are very highly trained in one specialty: anesthesia. Their extensive education makes them uniquely qualified to provide the highest quality of care in the surgical setting.
What is the difference between delegatory authority and licensure?
CAA licensure results from legislation and is codified into state law. Delegatory authority does not result from a legislative act. Instead, a board of medicine grants a physician the authority to delegate certain tasks to a CAA. An anesthesiologist who exercises delegatory authority must remain ultimately responsible to the patient and must ensure that the CAA performing the delegated tasks is qualified to do so.
Why is licensure preferable to delegatory authority?
Licensure can be more difficult to obtain than delegatory authority, which is one reason why some states (including Texas) have not yet gone this route. However, licensure is far preferable, for both providers and patients.
Licensure better defines an CAA’s role and scope of practice. When the CAA’s role is clearly defined, there are fewer “gray areas” and the possibility of a malpractice lawsuit is significantly diminished. In short: Licensure protects both CAAs and patients. Providers such as CAAs, who administer critical and life-preserving care to patients, ought to have the clearly defined roles that licensure provides – explicitly and by state law. CAAs, who are highly educated and skilled, deserve the same regulatory protection that other healthcare providers enjoy.