CRNA stands for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and AA stands for Anesthesiologist Assistant. Students studying under any of these fields will be giving anesthesia but there is lot of difference in their posts and responsibilities.
A nurse assistant (CRNA) can work individually but an Anesthesiologist assistant (AA) always has to work under the guidance of an anesthesiologist. This is the chief difference between a CRNA and an AA. The study curriculum that they both follow is quite different too. A nurse assistant has to complete the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSc Nursing). After completion of the degree one must have an authorized registration. Later on, one has to complete an internship consisting of one full year of training with full duties in the medical intensive care unit and the surgical intensive care unit. This makes the nurse assistant extremely experienced and fully capable of handling cases in the rural sectors also. Some of them may also finish M.Sc. in Nursing. The course length for both the career options is almost the same. Since CRNAs can work individually, they have a wide variety of work opportunities in large academic medical centers, hospitals, small units where pain management is taken care of, outpatient surgery clinics, etc. They have studies based on pediatric anesthesia also. Since they already have basic medical knowledge while doing their nursing studies, they do not need to be taught about basic anatomy, certain life saving procedures and maneuvers whereas anesthesiologist assistants are given all the pre-medical knowledge right from anatomy, physiology, pediatric life support, knowledge about drugs, about anesthesia etc during the course of becoming a certified AA.
An Anesthesiologist assistant is a non-physician who provides anesthesia but he has to work under the medical direction and supervision of an anesthesiologist. They can work in hospitals and clinics but they are a legal responsibility of the anesthesiologist. They are qualified by advance studies and clinical training so as to work in co-operation with anesthesiologist. Their study curriculum has the requirement of a Bachelor’s degree followed by an entrance exam which qualifies them for the Anesthesiologist assistant post. Once the qualification is done then they need to go through intensive study and clinical training both. After completing the required hours of study they can then work with the anesthesiologists as assistants. They have a lot of work like doing a general check up of the patient, taking blood samples for monitoring certain levels of gases in the body, evaluating the pre-op health status, confirming whether patient has been on drugs which were prescribed, also they need to give anesthesia either local or general and lastly they also have to take post operative rounds to keep a watch on the patient’s general health status. They are taught about basic life saving procedures and also the extra care needed to be taken in pediatric cases. One has to be extremely gentle in pediatric cases as rough handling of the cases might put their life in danger.
Salary scales are almost the same for both the fields excepting the variation which takes place from one state to another.
We have got an overview of both the fields and the differences in the nature of work each of them performs. Nevertheless each field has its own importance. A CRNA can work individually while an AA is always an assistant to an anesthesiologist and cannot give anesthesia individually. Their pay scales differ minimally and the job profile of an AA is more extensive.