Anesthesiology technicians and assistants may work in the same team, helping administer anesthesia to patients, but they have different responsibilities. An assistant, or AA, has a medical role and works with patients; a technician takes a support role and works with anesthesiology equipment. These jobs have different duties, skills and qualifications.
Job Duties of the Anesthesiology Assistant
AAs work under the supervision of licensed anesthesiologists. This is a "physician extender" or "nonphysician anesthetist" role -- you'll take on critical medical care tasks, including administering some anesthesia. You'll be the person who is with the patient before, during and after they are anesthetized. It is your responsibility to run checks, tests and exams on patients, and you might assist with preoperative procedures such as catheterizations and echocardiographs. You also need to check equipment before it is used. During procedures, you'll monitor and adjust anesthesia delivery.
Job Duties of the Anesthesiology Technician
Your role as an anesthesiology technician is no less critical than that of an AA, but the focus is different. The primary responsibility of this role is looking after the equipment used in anesthesia care. This involves checking and preparing monitoring and delivery systems before a procedure so that they are safe to use. You may also be responsible for troubleshooting, maintenance and servicing and, in some cases, operating equipment during a procedure. You'll also ensure that all equipment and delivery systems are clean, sterilized and fit for purpose. The role typically involves stock checking and ordering.
Similarities and Differences
Both AAs and technicians have important roles in the care planning and implementation of anesthesia. However, the roles have more differences than similarities. AAs are medical staff who work directly with patients as part of the primary anesthesiology care team -- their focus is the patient. Technicians have more of a support role within the team and develop technical skills rather than health care capabilities -- their focus is the equipment. AAs can only work under the direction of an anesthesiologist; technicians may report to other members of the care team.
Education and Certification
AAs need a four-year college degree with a premed focus. You'll then go on to get a master's in anesthesiologist assistant training, ideally from a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. After graduation, you can apply to take the National Commission for the Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants exam to start the certification process. The base requirement for anesthesiology technicians is typically a high school diploma or GED, although some employers require a two-year health care degree. You can opt to take certification through the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians.
- The American Society of Anesthesiologists: Types of Careers in Anesthesiology
- ExploreHealthCareers.org: Anesthesiologist Assistants
- The American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians: Standards of Practice
- The American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants: Facts About AAs
- ExploreHealthCareers.org: Anesthesiologist Assistants -- Academic Requirements
Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.