Continuing Education Options for Anesthesia Professionals

Jan 02, 2019

Anesthesiology professionals include anesthesiologists, anesthesiologist assistants and nurse anesthetists. These medical professionals are all required to complete continuing education in order to maintain professional certification. Learn more about continuing education options for these professions.

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There are several different ways for anesthesia professionals to earn continuing education credits, depending on their job titles.

What Are Some Continuing Education Options for Anesthesia Professionals?

Anesthesia professionals are medical professionals who are trained in anesthesiology, the branch of medicine that focuses on surgical and non-surgical pain relief. Careers in anesthesiology include anesthesiologists, anesthesiologist assistants and nurse anesthetists. All of these positions require licensure or certification, and continuing education is typically required to keep certifications current.


Anesthesiologists are licensed physicians who administer anesthetics before, during and after surgeries and other medical procedures. These physicians are also responsible for the safety and care of patients while they are under the anesthesia. Anesthesiologists must have graduated from medical school, completed a residency and passed the national Board exam before securing licensure. Once licensed, they may wish to earn certification from the American Board of Anesthesiology or the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

All licensed physicians are required to complete continuing medical education (CME) courses, though exact requirements vary by state. For example, California requires physicians to complete 50 hours of CME during each certification renewal period. CME options are available from many sources, but they must be approved by an official organization - such as the American Medical Association or Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. The ASA also offers an Anesthesiology Continuing Education (ACE) program specifically designed for anesthesiologists who need to complete their CME credits. Some other options for anesthesiologists who need to earn CME credits include the following:

  • Attending courses at a school or hospital
  • Attending a conference, workshop or seminar
  • Self-study online courses
  • Faculty teaching
  • Writing tests
  • Reviewing manuscripts

Anesthesiologist Assistants

Anesthesiologist assistants usually work in hospital operating rooms under the supervision of surgeons and anesthesiologists. They are often responsible for administering pain relief medications, assisting with therapeutic activities and helping patients recover from procedures. These workers typically apply for certification through the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA). Certification requires passing an exam.

After becoming certified, anesthesiologist assistants must complete 40 hours of continuing medical education credits, with at least 30 hours in the field of anesthesia, every two years. CME credits can be earned by completing courses offered by the American Medical Association, American Association of Physician Assistants or Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. CME courses may cover some of the following topics:

  • Pediatric anesthesiology
  • Critical care provision
  • Innovation in anesthesiology

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists are employed in hospitals, surgical clinics, dental offices and other healthcare environments. They work with anesthesiologists and their assistants to help manage patients' pain. These nurses observe and report information back to doctors about the level of drugs given to patients, and they make sure that patients are always comfortable. These workers must have completed an undergraduate registered nurse program as well as a nurse anesthesia graduate program and pass a national certification exam.

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, this field was the first among specialty nursing professions to require continuing education. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists must complete 40 credits of continued education credits every two years. CRNA's have several options to earn their continuing education credits, including the following:

  • Formal academic courses and programs
  • Employer in-services
  • Independent studies (must be approved)
  • Clinical simulations

Anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists and anesthesiology assistants all need to earn continuing education credits to maintain licensure, and they can choose from a variety of options for earning these credits.

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