The Role of an Anesthesia Tech Before and After Surgery
May 4, 2015
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Do you have an interest in donning scrubs and working in a medical setting? Studying to become an anesthesia tech can let you do just that. Among the nation's fastest-growing jobs, the role of an anesthesia tech — as either a technician or technologist — is indispensable.
Technologist Vs. Technician
Although the term anesthesia tech is often applied to both technicians and technologists, the differences in ability and application are substantial. Technologists typically have a bachelor's degree, whereas technicians generally hold an associate degree. Both work principally in hospitals, but some practice in outpatient surgery facilities or physician practices. The needs of the employer ultimately determine the role of an anesthesia tech.
Technologists in particular work in the operating room (OR) with the surgical team, directly assisting the anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthesiologist (CRNA). Their tasks include monitoring and operating various types of equipment for intravenous and gas-induced anesthesia. Because they rarely leave the OR before a procedure is finished, they may stand continuously throughout the day in sterile yet busy environments.
Preparing for Surgery
While handling anesthesia and ensuring adequate stock in the OR, the bulk of anesthesia technicians' time is spent preparing equipment and supplies for surgery. In this capacity, they perform much of their work in a sterile environment. This commitment to sterility is important, and they realize the slightest compromise is unacceptable.
They also ensure airway management equipment — such as emergency intubation kits, light wands, fiberoptic bronchoscopes, laryngeal masks and cuffed oropharyngeal airway gear — is on hand in every surgery suite. Other presurgery tasks include:
- Preparing patients;
- Ensuring properly functioning suctioning equipment is on hand;
- Setting up endotracheal tubes (ET);
- Arranging transtracheal jet ventilation devices;
- Stocking self-inflating resuscitation bags, breathing circuits and masks;
- Ensuring the adequate stock of laryngoscope blades;
- Double-checking instrument calibrations;
- Ensuring gas cylinders are full, functional and on hand.
The anesthesia tech may spend much of his or her time working before surgery, but there is still plenty to do afterward. Although the surgical technicians break down and clean much of the OR and its equipment after a procedure, the role of the anesthesia tech is to do the same with their own items.
Employing a variety of sterilization techniques that include steam, gamma radiation and such chemicals as ethylene oxide and glutaraldehyde, they disassemble, sterilize and clean all reusable items they may have provided for a surgical team. Among their many other postsurgery tasks, anesthesia techs:
- Check for sodalime depletion in the CO2 absorbers;
- Disassemble (and reassemble before surgery) absorbers for cleaning and sterilization;
- Handle and store all volatile gas cylinders and related supplies;
- Dispose of spent CO2 absorbent;
- Recalibrate instrumentation.
When not performing these pre- and postsurgery tasks, anesthesia technicians manage inventories, order supplies, attend training programs and engage in similar professional activities.
Between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of anesthesia tech positions is predicted to grow by 30 percent — nearly three times the national average for all U.S. jobs combined. If you're looking for a clinical role in the OR and the field of anesthesia interests you most, consider anesthesia technology. Being a part of the surgical team doesn't require you to work in the OR, and the technician position may prove to be right for you in other ways, too.
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