What is anesthesia technology?
The applied use of anesthesia technology is central to the routine and effective practice of modern medicine. Anesthesia is used to render patients unaware and insensitive to pain prior to surgery or other potentially distressing and invasive procedures. The use of anesthetic agents enables patients to undergo these procedures without enduring the severe pain and trauma they would otherwise experience if they remained awake and aware. Anesthesia technology is a delicate and measured science given that anesthesia must be administered in precise amounts and in accordance with strict guidelines so as to successfully anesthetize patients in a way that is safe and free of complications. Anesthesia is truly a boon, one of the fundamental elements of modern medical practice. The advent of anesthesia truly revolutionized the practice of medicine, in terms of both treatment and diagnosis.
Through anesthesia, it is possible to temporarily control or block receptors in the nervous system responsible for normal sensations, including the sensation
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What is the role of anesthesia technicians and technologists?
Anesthesia technicians and technologists work as part of a team that also includes anesthesiologists and anesthesia assistants and perform their duties under the supervision of licensed anesthesiologists. These specially trained healthcare professionals have a thorough knowledge of various anesthetic agents, as well as extensive skill in using and maintaining anesthesia instruments, equipment, and supplies. Anesthesiology technicians work in surgical and clinical care settings, including operating rooms, intensive care units, obstetrics departments and delivery rooms, post-anesthesia care units, emergency rooms, dental offices, ambulatory surgery departments, research laboratories, endoscopy clinics, diagnostic units including radiology departments, and catheterization laboratories.
Anesthesia technologists assist anesthesiologists and other health care providers in delivering anesthesia into the circulatory or respiratory systems of their patients. Administering anesthesia may involve the use of one or more of a number of different anesthetic agents that have different effects. Anesthesia technicians and technologists assist in administering general and local anesthesia, as well as monitored anesthesia care (MAC) and regional anesthesia. They obtain, prepare, apply, and maintain the equipment and materials necessary for safe and effective administration. This includes monitoring both the patient and the anesthesia delivery system at all stages of the process; before, during, and after the anesthesia is administered.
Administering anesthesia to a patient involves a number of steps, all of which must be performed carefully and to exact specifications in order to ensure the proper dose is administered so that the patient suffers no ill effect as a result. The primary function of anesthesia technicians and technologists is to provide support to anesthesiologists, who are physicians that specialize in the proper application of anesthetic agents in a medical setting. Although they do not administer anesthesia themselves, anesthesia technicians and technologists perform duties that are essential to delivering these medications to patients safely and effectively.
What are the different types of anesthesia?
General anesthetic agents suppress nervous system activity in the brain, rendering the patient unaware, insensate, and effectively unconscious. The patient retains no memory of events that occur while the general anesthesia has effect. General anesthesia is typically used during major surgery and other invasive procedures that would cause extreme pain and anxiety to the patient if he or she were awake. Delivering the proper amount of anesthesia that will suppress the patient’s consciousness and sensation without dangerously suppressing respiration and heart rate requires care and attention. Body weight and other physical factors must be taken into account, and anesthesia technicians must carefully calibrate anesthesia equipment and monitor vital signs while the patient is under the influence of general anesthesia.
Local anesthetic agents suppress sensation in the specific part of body in which it is applied and in the immediate surrounding area. Such agents may be delivered by needle injection or, less frequently, through topical application. Patients remain aware and awake after the administration of local anesthesia; only the localized area surrounding the point of anesthesia application is affected. The experience of being treated with local anesthesia is frequently described as producing a numbing feeling. Local anesthesia is commonly used in dental offices for minor but potentially painful procedures such as cavity filling, tooth removal, and basic oral surgery. It is also frequently used in emergency rooms prior to the suturing of open wounds.
Regional anesthesia blocks sensation to a larger area of the body than local anesthetic agents do. It accomplishes this by preventing the transmission of nerve impulses between that area of the body and the spinal cord. A commonly referenced example of regional anesthesia is an epidural, an injection administered into the spine of a pregnant woman during labor. An epidural relieves some of the pain of childbirth by dulling sensation to the lower part of the body while still permitting the mother-to-be to assist in the delivery by pushing.
Dissociative anesthesia suppresses the transmission of impulses between the brain’s cerebral cortex and the brain’s lower centers, including the structures of the limbic system. Although it blocks pain impulses, dissociative anesthesia, unlike general anesthesia, does not render the patient completely insensate. Instead, it instills deep relaxation and places the patient in a state similar to a trance. The patient’s eyes may remain open while under the influence of dissociative anesthesia, but he or she feels no pain and generally retains no memory of the procedure. The advantage of dissociative anesthesia is that it both takes effect and wears off much more quickly than general anesthesia. Dissociative anesthesia also poses fewer risks than general anesthesia when administered to children, elderly individuals, and patients with unstable vital signs and low blood pressure. Consequently, it is particularly appropriate for use in procedures performed on trauma victims and in brief procedures, such as bandage changes, that may nonetheless be distressing and painful to the patient. Ketamine is the most commonly used dissociative anesthetic agent and is administered through an IV or intramuscular injection. Learn about anesthesia technology salaries.
Anesthesia Tech Certification
What is a Certified Anesthesia Technician?
To become a Certified Anesthesia Technician, one must successfully pass an examination administered by the ASATT (The American Society of Anesthesiology Technicians and Technologists). The ASATT sets certain standards for professional and educational credentials for anesthesiology technicians and determines the qualifications for anesthesia tech certification.
In order to become certified, an anesthesia technician must demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge and skill in the area of anesthesia care. He or she must know how to assemble, calibrate, and prepare anesthesia delivery equipment for use in anesthesia administration. He or she must also be proficient in the inspection, maintenance, and troubleshooting of such equipment. Because anesthetic agents are potentially dangerous when misused or improperly applied, an anesthesiology technician who seeks certification must have firm knowledge of all safety and handling guidelines and regulations related to gases and other anesthetic substances.
What education is required to become a Certified Anesthesia Technician?
To become certified, anesthesia technicians should, at a minimum, have a high school diploma or the equivalent and hold a degree from a two-year anesthesia technology training program that has been approved by the ASATT (American Society of Anesthesia Technicians and Technologists). Such an approved program will have a clinical component that involves the hands-on administration of anesthesia and the handling and maintenance of anesthesia equipment. Certification by the ASATT also requires two years of work experience in a clinical setting as an anesthesia technician.
What skills and competencies are required to become a Certified Anesthesia Technician?
Certification as an anesthesia technician requires a thorough knowledge of the principles of patient care as they pertain to and are impacted by anesthesia as well as show practical skill in carrying them out. In addition, he or she must demonstrate familiarity with and understanding of the equipment, materials, and supplies used in the administration, storage, and handling of anesthetic agents and in related patient care activities. Certified Anesthesia Technicians must also be able to understand and use medical terminology related to anesthesia and basic patient care. They must also have a thorough understanding of human anatomy and physiology, especially as it relates to the administration of anesthetic agents and their effects on the human body.
A Certified Anesthesia Technician must also demonstrate an understanding of life support functions and equipment. He or she must show the capacity to function effectively in complex diagnostic and patient care situations, as well as other clinical contexts.
What is a Certified Anesthesia Technologist
A Certified Anesthesia Technologist is an anesthesia technician who has undergone additional training and obtained additional experience above and beyond that which is necessary to become a certified anesthesia technician. To become a Certified Anesthesia Technologist, an anesthesia technician must complete and pass both the Certified Anesthesia Technician Examination and the Certified Anesthesia Technologist Examination, which are offered by ASATT (The American Society of Anesthesia Technicians and Technologists).
Among the specialized skills required for this advanced certification level, the Certified Anesthesia Technologist must be proficient with intra-operative fluid management, volume resuscitation, the operation of auto transfusion machinery, the upkeep and inspection of anesthesia gas delivery equipment and systems, and the monitoring of the intra-aortic balloon pump during surgery. He or she must have thorough practical knowledge of a wide range of anesthesia delivery systems, as well as of related medical equipment, including rapid infusion devices, EKGs, pulse oximeters, scavenger systems, and gas analyzers, patient warming devices, humidification units, endoscopic equipment, infusion pumps, and neuromuscular devices. The certified anesthesia technologist must also be able to perform basic and advanced life support, as well as pediatric advanced life support. He or she must have the advanced skills necessary to provide assistance to anesthesiologists and other care providers in procedures such as fiber optic intubation and insertion of pulmonary artery catheters and central venous access. He or she must complete a course in EKG administration and reading and be able to detect dysrhythmias and arrhythmias on patient EKGs during the application of anesthesia.
A Certified Anesthesia Technologist should be prepared and qualified to take on administrative and leadership duties in addition to those usually handled by a certified anesthesia technician. These may include the coordination of various staff on the anesthesia patient care team and communication with representatives of other healthcare teams involved with the patient’s case, as well as participation in various departmental or institutional committees and taskforces.
What education and experience is required to become a Certified Anesthesia Technologist?
The basic educational and experiential requirements for a Certified Anesthesia Technologist are the same as those for a Certified Anesthesia Technician: a high school diploma or the equivalent, a two-year degree in anesthesia technology, and two years of clinical work experience. In addition, a degree or educational certificate in health care administration and two years experience in health care administration in anesthesia or other allied health field are required in order to become a Certified Anesthesia Technologist.
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Anesthesia Technician Schools
What educational background is required to become an anesthesia technician or technologist?
Anesthesia technicians and technologists must have a high school diploma or the equivalent and a degree in anesthesia technology from a two-year college. This is the minimum educational requirement for anesthesia technician or technologist certification through ASATT (The American Society of Anesthesia Technicians and Technologists). However, in order to qualify for the widest range of positions available and to have greater potential for salary and professional growth, it is worth considering a four-year bachelor’s degree in anesthesia technology or a related field. It is also possible to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree in a different field and then pursue a graduate degree in anesthesia technology or obtain a professional certificate from an educational institution that offers an anesthesia technology program.
Programs in anesthesia technology are offered by a variety of educational institutions. You will find anesthesia technology training programs at
What can I expect from anesthesia technology training programs?
The curriculum of any training program in anesthesia technology should cover certain key topics and skills that are vital for efficient and safe administration of anesthesia within a clinical setting. First, the aspiring anesthesia technician must learn about the environment of the standard operating room: How is the operating room organized? How does it function? What are the established protocols in a hospital operating room and how do anesthesia technicians and technologist, as well as the anesthesia patient care team as a whole, adhere to these protocols?
A student of anesthesia technology must also learn about sterile techniques when handling anesthesia equipment and delivery systems and when administering patient care related to anesthesia. In addition, knowledge of materials management is very important. An anesthesia technician must store, handle, and administer substances, including bulk and cylinder gases that are potentially dangerous if misused or misapplied. Thus, an educational program in anesthesia technology will emphasize coursework that will familiarize the student with the properties of different anesthetic agents and how to safely and effectively manage them.
Students of anesthesia technology must also master basic and advanced life support techniques. This involves learning to understand how to calibrate and read machines that report on patients’ vital signs, while also being able to administer life-saving techniques in the operating room or other clinical setting if a patient has a bad reaction to an anesthetic agent. Anesthesia technician schools will offer coursework in human anatomy and physiology, different types of anesthesia and their effects, anesthesia pharmacology, advanced life support, and pediatric life support.
What’s involved in the clinical component of training?
Programs at anesthesia technology schools also offer clinical components that give students the opportunity to get hands on experience. In clinical rotations and practicums students learn about airway management equipment, anesthesia gas delivery systems and related monitors and accessories, intravenous therapy, the handling of intraoperative and postoperative complications, autotransfusion, blood analysis, and the operation and monitoring of intra-aortic balloon pumps. Clinical classes prepare students for anesthesia technology jobs by requiring a number of hours working in a hospital setting with real patients and assisting with real-life procedures.
What are some prerequisite courses for programs offered by anesthesia technology schools?
Prerequisites may vary depending on the anesthesia technology training program a prospective student applies for. It is highly recommended that those who intend to pursue one of these programs have a strong aptitude for math, science, and technology-related subjects, as well as a keen enjoyment of these topics. They should also enjoy working with people, as anesthesia technicians interact frequently with patients, as well as with doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and other members of the anesthesia patient care team.
Those who come to an anesthesia technician training program with a strong foundation will have taken as many advanced biology, anatomy and physiology, and mathematics classes as possible at the secondary school and college level. Pursuing certification in First Aid and Basic Life Support from the American Heart Association is also a good idea. When thinking about extracurricular activities and work experience, aspiring anesthesia technicians and technologists should consider volunteering at a hospital or earning a certification as an EMT (emergency medical technician).
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.
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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.
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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.
Anesthesia Tech Salary
What kind of salary does an anesthesia technician make?
Anesthesia technicians earn anywhere from $24,204 to $50,794 in annual yearly pay, according to May 2015 information from payscale.com. Affecting income are factors such as overtime, bonus and even certification obtained. Also having an impact is the number of years spent working in the profession. In fact, payscale.com shows the salary breakdown of what anesthesia technicians make depending on how many years in the field they have worked:
- Up to five years of experience: $30,000
- 5 to 10 years of experience: $36,000
- 10 to 20 years experience: $41,000
- More than 20 years of experience: $42,000
What is the job outlook for anesthesia technicians?
The future job outlook for anesthesia technicians and technologists is "extremely bright,", according to a representative from the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT), which does the certification testing. The ASATT representative said this is because a higher level of education and certification will soon be required for these individuals, allowing them to become known as true allied healthcare professionals. In fact, as of July 2015, the technician status will be dropped from ASATT use, and just one test for the technologist will be available. This means that all testing individuals will become technologists and the technician status will no longer exist, according to the representative.
This increased education is going to drive demand, the representative said: "The feeling is that eventually someone is going to require certified technologists. Once that's required, it's the snowball effect. We're trying to keep [those in the field] ahead of the curve."
After July 2015, no new exams will be given at the technician level, while individuals who are currently certified as technicians will need to take the test to qualify for technologists, the representative said. More details about the technologist exam can be found on the ASATT website. Currently, to become an anesthesia technologist, two years of work as an anesthesia technician or graduation from a two-year educational program approved by the ASATT is required.
How to become an anesthesia tech
Because anesthesia technicians and technologists have a wide range of responsibilities, it is important for them to receive some postsecondary training. Payscale.com reports this can be accomplished through vocational school training, although a two-year program may be essential to becoming a technologist, according to the ASATT. On the job, technicians and technologists may be expected to prepare patients for anesthesia, clean and stock related equipment and assist during anesthesia procedures. More advanced occupations in the field include chief nurse anesthetist (CNA) and anesthesiologist.
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- Anesthesia Technician Salary, payscale.com, May 2015. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Anesthesia_Technician/Hourly_Rate
- Interview with American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians representative, May 19, 2015.