The American Society of Anesthesiologists defines the practice of anesthesiology as "dedicated to the relief of pain and total care of the surgical patient before, during and after surgery." Anesthesia care teams may consist of physicians, nurse anesthetists, anesthesiology assistants and anesthesia technicians. All these professionals can be licensed and practice in the state of North Carolina. However, training for some of these positions must be completed out-of-state.
Before specializing in anesthesiology, students must earn a medical degree (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree from a recognized medical or osteopathic school. With one of those degrees in hand, you apply for a residency in anesthesiology. A residency is designed to focus learning to one area of medicine. Three North Carolina universities offer residencies in anesthesiology: Duke University in Durham, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.
Nurse anesthetists train on a graduate level after receiving a four-year nursing degree. Called certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), these professionals are considered advanced practice nurses. In addition to a graduate degree, CRNAs must have a year or more of acute care experience. Six North Carolina schools offer these degrees: Duke University; Raleigh School of Nurse Anesthesia, in conjunction with UNC-Greensboro; Wake Forest University; UNC-Charlotte, in conjunction with Carolinas Health Care System; Eastern Carolina University in Greenville and Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.
Anesthesia assistants (AAs) work under the direction of physicians. AAs hold four-year degrees, which include pre-med classes, and then complete graduate degrees in this area. Students must take the graduate record exam (GRE) or the medical college admission test (MCAT) to enter an AA program. There are only nine training programs in the US for this career path; none are in North Carolina. The closest programs would be at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia or South University in Savannah.
Anesthesia technicians maintain the equipment used to deliver anesthesia and monitor patients. Technicians also manage the supplies used by the anesthesia care team during surgery. Technicians need at least a high school diploma or a GED. Most technicians will complete a certificate program. Technologists hold two-year associate degrees. One North Carolina school, the Carolinas College of Health Science in Charlotte, offers training in this field. Students in the non-credit, non-degreed program earn certificates.