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What is an Anesthesia Technician?

In this career, you’ll likely be a part of a surgical team as they perform scheduled and emergency operations. You’ll help people during one the most vulnerable times of their lives.

Besides caring for patients, being an Anesthesia Technician is a great option for people who don’t want to spend years of time and tons of money getting a post-high school education.

If this sounds like you, keep reading to learn more about what it takes to become a thriving Anesthesia Technician.

What Does an Anesthesia Technician Do?

Being an Anesthesia Technician means working as a part of an anesthetics team under the direction of an Anesthesiologist.

One of a technician’s job duties is testing a patient for anesthesia allergies before they receive medication. These medical professionals are trained to spot any signs of an allergic reaction. This is a very important part of the patient’s pre-operative prep to ensure the rest of the surgery goes as planned.

Besides this, Anesthesia Technicians are experts in all the equipment used by the Anesthesiologist. They are tasked with cleaning the instruments, making sure they’re properly calibrated, and troubleshooting the machines to keep them functional.

Anesthesia Technicians must also know how to operate the machines they’re responsible for maintaining. Some of the most common types of equipment they clean and calibrate are the anesthesia delivery systems, ancillary devices, and monitors.

During a patient’s procedure, the Anesthesia Technician is a part of the team in the operating room. Before the operation starts, they gather all the materials the Anesthesiologist requires for the surgery. This normally includes sterile masks, gloves, intravenous (IV) lines and pouches, and the anesthesia medication.

Some Anesthesia Technicians may set up the IVs and explain the anesthetization process to the patient, but they must receive extra training for this task. They may also keep a patient calm as the anesthesia is administered.

In the operating room, Anesthesia Technicians observe the monitoring equipment to track the patient’s vital signs. If they notice any abnormalities, they inform the surgery team. And if the patient starts to wake up mid-procedure, they assist the Anesthesiologist in increasing their anesthesia dosage.

After the patient’s surgery is finished, the technician will remain with them as they recover. They carefully monitor the patient to make sure the anesthesia properly leaves their system.

Outside of their patient monitoring and supply gathering, Anesthesia Technicians are the ones who track the anesthesia medicine that’s in stock and request more as needed.

What is an Anesthesia Technician Responsible For?

Anesthesia Technicians are mainly responsible for ensuring the Anesthesiologist and the rest of the surgical team have everything they need to complete a medical procedure.

A part of being responsible for surgical materials is understanding how the equipment and machines work. This includes performing routine maintenance and inspections and keeping detailed notes of when they were last completed.

Another aspect is keeping diligent track of the anesthesia medicine and other supplies. When inventory is low, the Anesthesia Technician will place an order request with their medical vendor.

Besides equipment maintenance and ordering, here are other tasks an Anesthesia Technician can expect to be responsible for on shift:

  • Working on a critical care team as they treat emergent patients; being ready to assist the surgical team at a moment’s notice
  • Helping with anesthesia induction, nerve blocks, epidurals, and trauma
  • Taking direction from a licensed Anesthesiologist to provide anesthesia care treatments for the patient; depending on the day and the unit, their Anesthesiologist will change
  • Preparing a patient to receive their anesthesia medicine before a surgery or another type of medical procedure
  • Monitoring and assessing a patient’s vitals during a surgery
  • Putting together art lines, transducers, swan lines, and fluid warmers for surgeries
  • During a surgery, placing orthopedic devices, giving wind care, performing blood draws and other phlebotomy tasks, and completing other related duties
  • Cleaning medical supplies including electrocadiogram lead wires, pulse oximeter probe, non-invasive blood pressure cuff, and soil equipment
  • Assisting the anesthesia team with other duties as needed, like turning over an operating room and patient assistance and transport

With so many different types of job duties, an Anesthesia Technician can get plenty of variety during their shifts. Their day is dictated by the types of surgeries and the materials required for each one.

While they are working, it’s important for the Anesthesia Tech to listen closely to what is being announced over their radio. This is where they’ll hear what medicines are being requested and other important details for their case.

Where Does an Anesthesia Technician Work?

Hospitals and surgical clinics are the two most common places for an Anesthesia Tech to be employed. About 70% of Anesthesia Techs work in one of these spaces. In those roles, they’re a part of the surgical team and work underneath an Anesthesiologist and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Alongside their physician and CRNA, the Anesthesia Tech will give pain relief to patients and make sure their anesthesia is working properly.

If being in a hospital or surgical center isn’t for you, there are some Anesthesia Techs who work for a private doctor’s practice or as a part of an emergency response team.

What Career Options are Available to an Anesthesia Technician?

Becoming an Anesthesia Technician means you will hold the title of Anesthesia Technician. The training is specific to anesthesia, meaning your knowledge will be best suited for this medical field.

If an Anesthesia Technician is working for a hospital, they may find themselves rotating between surgery units including neurology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, cardiology, and general medicine.

Each type of surgery has its own anesthesia needs. A cardiology procedure and a neurology operation will require different types of medications and machinery.

Getting to assist in a variety of departments is a great way for the technician to decide which types of medicine they are most interested in.

What Degree is Required to Become an Anesthesia Technician? What Do They Study?

The first thing you’ll need to do to become an Anesthesia Technician is earing either your high school diploma or GED. Focusing on math and science classes is also a good idea — especially biology and chemistry courses — since they are relevant to your future career.

There are some hospitals that will allow you to start work as an Anesthesia Tech with only your diploma and a few years of experience working in a clinical setting. Depending on where you’re planning to work, you have the option to stop here.

Even if you don’t plan to attend college, it’s imperative to get plenty of clinical experience before transitioning into anesthetics. Getting the opportunity to shadow an established Anesthesia Technician will give you valuable insight on what the career is really like.

To get a deeper education, and increase your potential salary, the next step is earning an associate’s degree in anesthetic technology. This program will take two years to complete. Before enrolling, make sure your program of choice is an accredited one — if not, it may be impossible for you to complete additional training or certification.

As students study, they will learn anesthesia essentials, like anatomy and pharmacology. Since their role will heavily feature the care of and troubleshooting anesthesia equipment, there will be a major focus on this.

There is an option to complete a one-year technical program. This also gives students experience in a clinical setting.

After getting your associate’s or technical degree, students can earn their certification in anesthesia technology through the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT). An ASATT certification is optional for Anesthesia Technicians.

There are perks to pursuing the ASATT credential though. Having it may increase both your salary and the types of job tasks you’ll be allowed to complete within your unit.

What Skills are Required for an Anesthesia Technician?

Because Anesthesia Technicians are sterilizing and preparing the anesthesia equipment before a patient’s surgery, it’s imperative they take pride in their work. They must properly clean everything. Without perfectly sterilized instruments patients can become incredibly sick.

Working as a part of a larger surgical team means that Anesthesia Technicians should be adept at teamwork and getting along with others. This quality helps the tech form relationships with the rest of the group and create a cohesive environment for patient care.

The Anesthesia Tech receives instructions from the Anesthesiologist and the CRNA, so it’s imperative they are active listeners and also detail oriented.

As a part of the surgical team and in a healthcare setting in general, Anesthesia Techs spend a lot of time on their feet. Committing to this kind of career means having some physical stamina.

How Much Money Does an Anesthesia Technician Earn?

On average, an Anesthesia Tech makes about $27.42 per hour or $63,982 per year. This salary can vary depending on which degree and/or certification the tech has earned. With certification, technicians can expect to make close to $100,000 annually.

Where are Anesthesia Technicians in Demand?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that surgical technician careers, like Anesthesia Technicians, will grow by 15% by 2024.

The states with the highest number of Anesthesia Tech jobs are:

  1. California: 2953 Anesthesia Tech jobs
  2. Illinois: 2058 Anesthesia Tech jobs
  3. Arizona: 1206 Anesthesia Tech jobs