Anesthesia Technician Jobs

What’s included in the anesthesia technician and technologist job description?

As part of his or her job duties, anesthesiology technicians may provide support to the anesthesia patient care team in the intake and assessment of patients; the transport of patients to operating rooms or other procedure sites; the positioning of patients for proper anesthesia administration; the insertion of intravenous lines; and the maintenance and monitoring of airways and vital signs during procedures.

Prior to a surgical procedure, anesthesia technicians and technologists must prepare the anesthesia instruments and equipment that will be used to deliver anesthetic agents to the patient.  For instance, prior to surgery anesthesia technicians and technologists must set up the anesthetic machines that will be in operation during surgery and ensure they are functioning properly.  If drugs are to be administered intravenously, the drugs must be prepared in the proper dosages and the intravenous therapy supplies and equipment must be readied.  When the anesthesia is actually administered to the patient, the anesthesia technologist may be called upon to assist by inserting central IV lines, peripheral IV lines, and arterial lines.

Certain key data must be confirmed with the patient and informed consent must be obtained before anesthesia is administered and surgery performed.  The anesthesia technician is often tasked with communicating with the patient, which involves obtaining consent for anesthesia and surgery, and checking off items on a pre-operative list, ensuring that the patient’s surgical team has correct information concerning allergies and medical history.

During a surgical procedure
anesthesia technicians and technologists carefully monitors the patient’s vital signs and other indicia of his or her condition before, during, and after the administration of anesthetic agents.  Monitoring must be performed continuously while patients are under general anesthesia.  According to guidelines promulgated by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, anesthesia technicians must monitor patient heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, electrocardiographic (ECG) signals and patterns, respiration rate, the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in inspired and expired gases, and blood oxygen saturation rate.  These measurements must be taken whenever a patient undergoes general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, or any form of sedation.

Under certain circumstances, particularly during prolonged or major surgery, anesthesia technicians may also be required to monitor additional bodily functions and readings, including urine output, central venous pressure, pulmonary artery pressure, pulmonary artery occlusion pressure, neuromuscular functionality, and brain activity. In addition, anesthesia technicians and technologists must monitor the temperature and relative humidity conditions in the operating room or procedure room.  In those instances when general anesthesia is delivered to the patient in gaseous form, anesthesia technicians and technologists must also take note of the concentration of exhaled anesthesia gases in the room so as to prevent negative effects on health care staff present in the operating room. 

A range of equipment may be required to perform these monitoring duties, including electrocardiography (ECG) and electroencephalography (EEG) machines, oxygen saturation and blood pressure monitors, and arterial blood gas analyzers.  Monitoring patients during anesthesia may also involve the collection and rapid testing of blood samples during a surgical procedure.  Because all anesthesia carries some risk of overly depressed respiration rate or allergic reaction, anesthesia technicians are required to be proficient at cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other forms of resuscitation and life-support.

Following a surgical procedure
in the post-operative recovery period, the anesthesia technician is often responsible for waking the patient, disengaging the patient from monitors, airway devices, and other equipment, and transferring the patient to the appropriate recovery unit.

The anesthesia technician is responsible for maintaining a proper inventory of anesthesia supplies and making sure that anesthesia equipment remains clean, sterile, and operational.  Some anesthetic agents come in gaseous form and can pose a hazard if not handled correctly.  Part of the training to become an anesthesia technician involves learning the proper procedures for the storage, handling, and use of bulk and cylinder gases.  Anesthesia technicians and technologists must also be especially vigilant concerning the detection of fire and explosion hazards in areas where anesthetic agents are stored and administered.

Learn about anesthesia technology certification.

Where are anesthesia technician and technologist jobs found?

The majority of anesthesia technicians and technologists work in hospitals or other large medical institutions where inpatient surgeries and complicated, invasive diagnostic procedures are performed.  Within these hospitals anesthesia technicians and technologists can be found working in a variety of different departments and settings.  Anesthesia is needed as a matter of standard practice in operating rooms. They also work in emergency rooms where patients often come into the hospital already suffering acute pain and sometimes in need of emergency surgery.  Anesthesia techs are also needed to prepare equipment before anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists administer anesthetic agents to women in labor within obstetric units, or to patients in intensive care units.

Some diagnostic procedures, such as endoscopies and colonoscopies, may require the administration of anesthesia, so anesthesia technicians and technologists can also be found working in radiology departments and other diagnostic units within hospitals. Many stand-alone diagnostic testing facilities also employ anesthesia technicians and technologists.  

As outpatient surgery becomes more common, anesthesia technicians and technologists may be found in outpatient clinics and ambulatory care settings.  Anesthesia technicians and technologists are frequently needed in dental practices, particularly in practices that specialize in orthodontics and oral surgery. In addition, research laboratories that use human and animal subjects often use anesthesia and require the expertise of anesthesia technicians and technologists. Anesthesia technicians and technologists also work at specialized medical institutions, such as trauma facilities and transplant centers.

What are the administrative and other duties of an anesthesia technician?

In addition to practical duties related to patient care, anesthesia technicians and technologists may have certain very important duties of an administrative nature.  As part of the anesthesia patient care team, an anesthesia technician plays critical roles in maintaining anesthesia equipment and supplies and preparing the patient and clinical environment for anesthesia administration.

The administrative duties of an anesthesia technician may include monitoring inventory levels of anesthetic agents, equipment, and supplies, as well as requisitioning and purchasing these materials. It is important, for instance, that sufficient supplies be available on hand as needed and that these supplies are stored and organized in such a way that they can be accessed and used efficiently.  Some anesthesia supplies have expiration dates after which they are no longer guaranteed to be sterile or effective.  The anesthesia technician must maintain familiarity with the department inventory so that only effective and safe supplies and equipment end up being used in patient care and when administering anesthesia.  Anesthesia technicians and technologists, particularly those with extensive or specialized experience, may also be involved in the development of educational and orientation programs for other anesthesia technicians and technologists and other members of the anesthesia patient care team. 

Anesthesia technicians and technologists may be required to keep department records on the use of anesthetic agents or prepare medical records documenting patient care as it relates to anesthesia.  Given the importance of insurance to affordable patient care and the current emphasis on cost containment in the practice of medicine, anesthesia technicians and technologists should have an understanding of the costs associated with anesthesia procedures and the likelihood of their ability to be reimbursed.  Like any other allied healthcare professional, anesthesia technicians and technologists must understand and respect rules concerning professional responsibility and medical ethics.  In particular, anesthesia technicians and technologists must preserve and protect patient confidentiality and defend patient rights with respect to self-determination and right to refuse care and choose a treatment plan.

Anesthesia technicians and technologists also maintain a document known as the anesthesia record that contains information concerning events that occur while a patient is under anesthesia.  The anesthesia record contains an account of the types and quantities of drugs, blood products, and fluids given to the patient and the times of their administration.  It also describes the procedures performed on the patient while under anesthesia and includes detailed data concerning cardiovascular measurements, urine output, blood loss, and vital sign monitoring.

What are some of the most highly skilled tasks anesthesia technologists may perform?

In certain situations, skilled and experienced anesthesia technologists may be called upon to assemble, operate, and monitor more sophisticated and complicated medical instrumentation and equipment.  This equipment includes intra-operative blood salvage machines, which collect blood lost during surgery to re-infuse into the patient’s circulatory system.  In the case of patients undergoing open-heart surgery or some forms of angioplasty, anesthesia technologists may be required to assemble, operate, and monitor a device known as an intra-aortic balloon pump, a catheter-based device that is inserted into the aorta through the femoral artery, which increases blood flow in the body so as to decrease strain upon the heart.  After surgery, he or she may also need to set up, insert, and monitor a pulmonary artery catheter, which helps detect heart failure or sepsis in critically ill patients.

What precautions are taken in the application of anesthesia technology?

Anesthesia technician needs to know how to apply and monitor basic life support systems.  They need to be proficient in the use and care of the monitoring equipment used to measure the physiological responses of the patient during the administration of anesthesia. A thorough understanding the composition and effects of various anesthetic gases and agents is also necessary to perform the job competently.  Anesthesia techs must know what anesthetic agent is appropriate for each type of patient and each surgical procedure.  They must be aware of the hazards of the materials being used and have sufficient knowledge to take the necessary precautions.  This includes knowledge of biological, electrical, and explosion hazards in areas, such as operating rooms, where anesthetic agents are in use, as well as the proper handling and storage of bulk and cylinder gases.  Anesthesia technicians should have a complete knowledge of human anatomy and physiology as it relates to the administration of and recovery from anesthetic agents.

Anesthesia technicians also need keen communication skills, as they work as part of a team whose functioning is crucial to patient health and well being.  They also need to be able to work and make decisions independently and operate efficiently in stressful situations. The effective anesthesia technologist will be able to prioritize activities and functions related to anesthesia administration and patient care, as well as delegate tasks to other members of the anesthesia patient care team.

Learn about anesthesia technology training programs.

What kind of specialized equipment do anesthesia technicians and technologists work with?

Anesthesia technicians and technologists also prepare, maintain, monitor, and apply a variety of instruments and devices during the procedure for the purpose of maintaining the patient’s airway.  The equipment essential to airway maintenance includes laryngeal masks, endotracheal tubes, oxygen masks and nasal tubing, and, in some cases, tracheostomy tubes. In addition to establishing and securing the patient’s airway and monitoring it through surgery, the anesthesia technician must also monitor the patient to ensure that proper levels of anesthesia are maintained and that the patient remains properly position during the procedure.

A variety of different devices are used to deliver different kinds of anesthesia to circulatory and respiratory systems of patients, including infusion pumps, oxygen masks, nasal oxygen sets, intravenous (IV) lines, continuous-flow anesthetic machines, syringes, spinal needles, epidural catheters, and lumbar puncture sets. This equipment must be assembled, properly calibrated, and routinely tested in order to ensure correct delivery of anesthetic agents.  The equipment must also be maintained, inspected, and repaired, as well as cleaned and sterilized before every surgical procedure.  Anesthesia technicians are responsible for the care and oversight of these instruments and devices.  They also monitor the equipment, as well as the patient’s vital signs, during the administration of anesthesia, while the surgical procedure is ongoing, and in the course of recovery from the effects of the anesthetic.

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