The Future of Anesthesiology is Here... Now

  • Poage, Jeffrey, MD
| Sep 27, 2016

How do Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants fit into the physician-led anesthesia care team model? How much training do they receive? Are CAAs a threat to a physician anesthesiologist’s job? What impact will they have on patient safety?

These are just some of the questions that our patients, the public, and indeed some of our own members may ask when considering their support of Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant (CAA) licensure in California.

Amercian-Society-of-AnesthesiologistsTo answer these questions, the CSA, with the help of a grant from the ASA, has launched a multi-pronged communication and grassroots outreach program titled “The Future of Anesthesiology is Here… Now,” aimed at securing state licensure for CAAs.

As part of this program, our society is in the process of hosting communications and advocacy workshops in five key markets throughout the state, conducted by CSA’s lobbying and public relations team at KP Public Affairs. So far, we have hosted meetings in San Francisco with District 6 Director Lee-lynn Chen, MD, in Fresno with District 5 Director Ying Tian, MD, and in Riverside with District 2 Director Henry Gonzalez, MD.

These meetings have offered our members a valuable glimpse into the complex reality of crafting statewide health policy and leveraging the media to shape public opinion. More importantly, it provided attendees with the tools they need to personally participate in the policymaking process and become effective advocates on behalf of the CSA, regardless of the policy issue.

CSA’s public relations and lobbying team provided background information on CAAs and how they fit into the future of anesthesia care. They also discussed public opinion research conducted by CSA to assess support for the physician-led anesthesia care team model as well as for allowing CAAs to practice in California.

CSA worked with the nationally recognized independent polling firm ORC International to conduct a telephone CARAVAN® survey. The research highlighted that many Californians are not aware of CAAs, but that they overwhelmingly support physician-led anesthesia care. This underscores the clear opportunity to educate the public and policy-makers about how CAAs are a critical part of the patient centered, physician-led anesthesia care team – they act as physician extenders who help promote efficiency and safety in patient care, while increasing access and options for care for California patients.

The team described the following facts about CAA practice:

  • CAAs are highly trained members of the Anesthesia Care Team 
  • CAAs guarantee physician oversight
  • CAAs offer more provider options to strengthen the patient-centered anesthesia care team
  • Increased health care demands create increased need for efficient team care
  • Patients want physicians leading their anesthesia care

CSA members were able to ask questions such as:

  • How many CAAs are practicing nationwide?
  • How many CAAs graduate each year?
  • What is the job placement rate for CAAs compared to CRNAs?
  • Do CAAs take call?
  • What are the physician supervision requirements?

CSA’s lobbyists then briefed attendees on the legislative process, and provided background information on the local elected officials that represent the region in the State Capitol. They discussed the value of constituent meetings in the district, the importance of connecting policy issues back to real-world impacts, the role of political fundraising, and complex dynamics of different stakeholder interests that actively work to influence legislative outcomes.

gaspac_largeThey also reinforced the importance of contributing to the CSA’s political action committee, GASPAC. Only through sustained contributions from group practices and individual members can the CSA continue to support candidates and/or elected officials who understand and champion issues that are critical to physician anesthesiologists in the State Capitol.

Shane Angus joined us as a guest at the San Francisco and Riverside meetings. He is a practicing CAA, and CAA Program Director at Case Western University. He answered questions about the quality of education, training, and clinical hours that CAAs must complete, and also helped provide clarity on how CAAs function as an integral and valuable part of the physician-led anesthesia care team. Mr. Angus was a convincing voice on behalf of CAA licensure, and stressed that their desire is not to replace physician anesthesiologists, but to work alongside us to help provide the highest quality patient care.

These workshops are providing helpful information about how CAAs fit into our practice and how they are important part of the future of our specialty. They are also helping untangle the mystery of Sacramento’s political scene, so that CSA members can feel informed and encouraged to participate in grassroots advocacy activities when called upon. As CSA moves forward with efforts to pursue CAA practice in California, we will be calling upon CSA members to engage with their local legislators and the media on behalf of our CAA policy goals.

I want to thank our team at KP Public Affairs for orchestrating these workshops, and more importantly our CSA members who have joined us to participate in them. Political advocacy is one of the most important responsibilities of a professional organization, and it can only be successful when our physicians are informed and engaged on the priority issues facing our profession.

If you want to help advance the cause of physician-led anesthesia care in California, and help the CSA maintain its prominence in Sacramento, please consider contributing to GASPAC today, and invite your colleagues and acquaintances to do the same.

If you are interested in our upcoming workshops in Los Angeles on October 17 or San Diego on November 7, or in arranging another meeting or webinar on this issue, please reach out to your district director or the CSA office at (916) 290-5830.

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