Anaesthetic technicians assist anaesthetists during operations, and prepare operating theatres and clinics for anaesthetic procedures.
Trainee anaesthetic technicians usually earn
$38K-$49K per year
Qualified anaesthetic technicians who are managers usually earn
$74K-$100K per year
Source: Public Service Association, 2019.
Pay for anaesthetic technicians varies depending on experience, hours of work, and employer.
District health board anaesthetic technicians are paid as follows:
- Trainee anaesthetic technicians usually earn between $38,000 and $47,000 a year.
- Qualified anaesthetic technicians usually earn between $51,000 and $79,000.
- Anaesthetic technicians who work as managers may earn up to $100,000.
Those working in private hospitals usually earn more when they start out.
Source: Public Service Association, 'Allied, Public Health and Technical Multi-Employer Collective Agreement: 2018-2020', accessed February 2019.
- PSA website - Allied, Public Health and Technical MECAs
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Anaesthetic technicians may do some or all of the following:
- check and set up life support and anaesthetic machines
- inform and reassure patients, and check for conditions that could create problems under anaesthesia
- help anaesthetists place patients' breathing tubes and intravenous lines
- help anaesthetists administer anaesthetics, including local anaesthetics and nerve blocks
- watch patients and monitor their vital signs (such as heartbeat)
- decontaminate, sterilise or dispose of equipment and materials used in operations
- assist with care after operations and insert catheters into patients.
Skills and knowledge
Anaesthetic technicians need to have knowledge of:
- operating theatre procedures and protocols
- anaesthetic and nerve-blocking machines, life support machines, other equipment and drugs
- emergency procedures, and how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- human anatomy, physiology and biophysics
- physical and medical conditions that may put patients at risk during anaesthesia.
- usually do shift work, including weekends, and may be on call
- work in operating rooms in hospitals and clinics, delivery suites and emergency departments
- work in conditions that may be stressful, particularly during operations.
What's the job really like?
Anaesthetic technician video
Lissey checks out the role of a trainee anaesthetic technician – 8.16 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)
Clinton: Lissey has come to Auckland’s North Shore Hospital. Her two mentors today, Sheeraz Raheem and Natalie Duley, are both trainee anaesthetic technicians.
Sheeraz: Hi, you must be Lissey, oh yes? My name is Sheeraz.
Lissey: Nice to meet you.
Natalie: Come on through.
Clinton: In a hospital, trainee anaesthetic technicians spend most of their time in operating theatres helping the anaesthetists induct, a technical term for putting people to sleep.They need a sound knowledge of theatre procedures, anaesthetic and nerve-blocking machines, drugs and equipment. So for Lissey it’s straight to the busy 12-operating-theatre centre.
Sheeraz: So there’s three main types of anaesthetic – there’s general anaesthesia, regional anaesthesia and local anaesthesia. With a general anaesthesia, the patient goes off to sleep and so they’re completely unaware of what’s going on.
Lissey: So before an operation, what is the first thing you do?
Sheeraz: The first thing we do is a comprehensive machine check.
Sheeraz: Right, so this is our anaesthetic machine, it's one of the newest ones we have and it’s called the Asis. And our job is to check it every morning, before the start of the list.
Clinton: The anaesthetic machine delivers a precisely controlled level of gas that puts patients to sleep. It provides accurate and instant monitoring of what the machine is doing...
Sheeraz: This canister contains the volatile anaesthetic agent that the machine delivers.
Clinton: ...Plus all the patient's vital signs – blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.
Lissey: How important is it to get the statistics?
Sheeraz: It’s very important because the anaesthetic drugs that we administer, they take away your breathing reflexes, and your airway reflexes. It also affects your physiology so it causes your blood pressure to drop, or even rise sometimes and it’s important that the anaesthetist and us, that we know what’s exactly going on in your body so we can titrate the anaesthetic to suit that.
Clinton: In theatre 7, Sheeraz gets on with his machine checks before an orthopaedic operation. In theatre 11, Lissey gets a lesson on an anatomically correct dummy of how the anaesthetic gas is administered.
Natalie: So Lissey, once they’re asleep, we’re going to be able to intubate the patient – so that’s making sure we can have gases going in and out of the patient safely. We’re going to use what’s called a laryngoscope blade, and we hold this in our left hand, and we come in to the patient from the right…
Natalie: …sweeping their tongue to the left…
Natalie: …if you look over my shoulder, you can see the vocal cords.
Natalie: Do you want to give that a go?
Clinton: Trainees need to have a sound knowledge of human anatomy and how the body works.
Natalie: I started from a three-week orientation where we knew absolutely nothing, and that provided a really good platform to grow on the skills that we have now. I’m now, not left to my own – I’m still supervised within the theatre – but I’m far more competent in helping the anaesthetist by myself.
Natalie: There you go…down nice and low…
Natalie: …can you see the cords?
Lissey: Yep, that’s actually really cool.
Natalie: So that’s when I’d pass you the tube…
Natalie: …you’ve got to feed it down through the cords, and I’m going to pull the stabiliser out, and attach this to the top of the tube and we’ll see what we get.
Lissey: So what was it like the first time you did it?
Natalie: The first time I didn’t quite get it in, the second time I was inflating the patient’s stomach. So it does take a lot of practice.
Sheeraz: The trainee scheme is probably one of the biggest perks of the job. You get paid from the day you start, you get reimbursed for your tuition fees, you get opportunities to go to lectures and attend seminars where consultant anaesthetists teach. It’s a very enjoyable time and I’m really enjoying it so far.
Clinton: The trainees are mentored by facilitator, Michelle Peck.
Michelle: Hello Mr Pert.
Mr Pert: Hi.
Michelle: How are you doing there?
Mr Pert: I’m feeling reasonably comfortable.
Michelle: And what are you having done today?
Mr Pert: I’m having a hernia repaired.
Michelle: I love my job. I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years now and every single day it’s different. The patients may be having the same procedure – we could have a whole list of patients having a hernia repair but every single patient is an individual and they have different types of medical histories so it’s never mundane – it’s always different, it’s never the same thing for every patient.
Clinton: Back in theatre 7 the machine checks are done and Sheeraz greets a new patient.
Sheeraz: Hi Melissa, my name’s Sheeraz, I’m one of the second-year trainee anaesthetic technicians, I’ll be helping the anaesthetist look after you today, alright?
Michelle: We’re just going to pop the brakes on…
Sheeraz: The role itself is very much a patient contact role and that involves comforting the patient, reassuring them, making sure that they’re comfortable, so you play quite an important role and often if they’re happy before they go off to sleep, they wake up happy as well.
Sheeraz: We’ve got the patient in, we’ve transferred her across, made sure she’s comfortable, and now the next thing that we’re going to do is get the monitors on. We’ll start of with the pulse oximeter, and what I’ll do is I’ll get you to put it on to the left hand of the index finger and that’s because it’s the same side as the lower.
We don’t put the blood pressure cup on the same side because when it squeezes, then it can occlude the flow of drugs up the vein.
Sheeraz: The last bit of monitoring that we’ll put on are these ECG leads. This goes on the right side.
I think you need to have a lot of empathy and you need to be able to relate to patients and talk to them, calm them down, reassure them, be a helping hand. It’s almost like a nursing role in a way – there’s a lot of compassion. I think that’s a very important part of providing the highest level of service to the patient.
Michelle: You’ve got to be adaptable, you’ve got to be flexible, you’ve got to have a fantastic sense of humour to do this job and you’ve got to be ready for anything at any given time.
Clinton: Nurses, radiographer, anaesthetist and surgeon are now all on hand. During surgery trainees need be able to identify the warning signs that indicate people are at risk during anaesthesia.
Sheeraz: The role of the anaesthetic technician can be likened to the relationship between a scrub nurse and a surgeon. You are the skilled assistant to the anaesthetist.
Clinton: With the surgery done the patient is allowed to come round and the monitoring is removed.
Michelle: I always remember, when I was training, my workplace assessor saying to me just always imagine that the patient on the table is your family member. I must have seen thousands of patients over the years and every single patient that comes in is a family member to me.
Clinton: Well Lissey has been through the job at quite a rate of knots, so how do our mentors rate Lissey?
Sheeraz: Lissey was very enthusiastic and she wasn’t squeamish at the sight of blood. She was also able to apply what she saw in this environment to what she has learnt at school. So overall I’d think she’d make a great trainee.
Lissey: It’s been an awesome learning experience. It was so much fun to do all the hands-on stuff and learn more about being an anaesthetic technician.
Clinton: To be a trainee anaesthetic technician you need to have NCEA Level 2 physics and Level 3 biology, and gain a position as a trainee at a recognised training hospital. You need to complete a diploma or graduate diploma in applied science, anaesthetic technology. You learn on the job working with an assessor who mentors your training. It is a growing profession where the role is evolving.
To become a trainee anaesthetic technician you need to get a trainee position at a recognised training hospital.
To become a qualified anaesthetic technician, you need to:
- complete on-the-job and distance learning
- pass the Diploma in Applied Science – Anaesthetic Technology (Level 5) or Graduate Diploma in Science – Anaesthetic Technology (Level 7)
- pass the New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians' Society's registration exam
- be registered by the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand
- hold an Annual Practising Certificate.
Existing tertiary qualifications can shorten training
The three-year Diploma in Applied Science – Anaesthetic Technology (Level 5) is for people without existing tertiary qualifications.
The one or two-year Graduate Diploma in Science – Anaesthetic Technology (Level 7) is for people who already have a degree-level science qualification, relevant professional experience, or who are registered nurses.
- Auckland University of Technology website - information about the Diploma in Applied Science
- Auckland University of Technology website - information about the Graduate Diploma in Science
- New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians' Society website - information about training
- New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians' Society website - list of training hospitals (PDF - 163KB)
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
To enter a training position and the Diploma in Applied Science (Anaesthetic Technology), you need to have at least 48 NCEA Level 2 credits.
These must include eight Level 2 credits, all in one of:
- earth and space science
Maths and Level 3 biology are also useful.
Anaesthetic technicians need to be:
- able to remain calm in emergencies and work well under pressure
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- good communicators who are able to relate to people from a range of cultures
- comfortable working around sick and injured people.
Experience in the medical field is useful for anaesthetic technicians.
Anaesthetic technicians need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong because they often need to move equipment and patients.
Anaesthetic technicians must be registered with the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand and hold an Annual Practising Certificate.
Find out more about training
- Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
- 0800 288 864 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.aut.ac.nz
- New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians' Society
- email@example.com - www.nzats.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances good due to shortage of anaesthetic technicians
Demand for anaesthetic technicians is strong due to:
- New Zealand's growing and ageing population, which means more surgical procedures
- insufficient numbers of trainees.
About 300 people are members of the New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians' Society in New Zealand, but this is not enough to meet demand.
As a result, anaesthetic technician appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled anaesthetic technicians from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Anaesthetic technicians work in hospitals
Anaesthetic technicians work for public or private hospitals.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians' Society, careers.govt.nz interview, January 2019.
- New Zealand Anaesthetic Technicians' Society website, accessed January 2019, (www.nzats.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Anaesthetic technicians may move into managerial or trainer roles.
Anaesthetic technicians can specialise in certain departments or procedures, including:
- paediatrics (working with children)
- emergency and resuscitation
- specialised surgery such as neurosurgery (brain surgery) or cardiothoracic surgery (for heart and lung-related conditions)
- using specialist equipment for cell saving (removing a patient's own blood or blood products, then later returning them to the patient's body).
Last updated 20 June 2019