Volume 4, No. 4 • Winter 1989

Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians … Experienced “Helping Hands”

Katherine Morgan

To the Editor

I was particularly interested to see in the June, 1989 APSF Newsletter concerns regarding the lack of experienced “helping hands” causing a near accident in the operating room, the lack of an “extra person” to help speed the safe delivery of anesthesia and keep up with productivity, and another look at Anesthesia Assistants as an idea for added safety through the use of retired anesthesiologists.

In response, I would like to emphasize that there are trained “helping hands” for the anesthetist and anesthesiologist-these are professional anesthesia technicians and techologists. I have been an anesthesia technician for 1 3 year; some of my colleagues have even more years of experience, and most of the hospitals in my area consider us vital to competent anesthesia care.

Anesthesia technicians and technologists assist with technical preparations for inducing anesthesia, intubation and airway management, and other facets of high risk cases. At my institution we manage the anesthesia workroom and are responsible for setup, calibration, and troubleshooting all anesthesia equipment; some also operate specialized devices, such as “‘cell savers”. We provide necessary anesthesia equipment and technical support for all permanent and temporary anesthetizing locations-OR, Labor and Delivery, X-Ray, Cat Scan, Cardiac Cath Lab, and now the MRI scanner. We maintain anesthesia supplies, coordinate equipment acquisition and maintenance, inservice anesthesiology and OR personnel, and help assure quality control by coordinating preventative maintenance and product alerts and recalls. As patient charges pertain to anesthesia equipment, many of us have responsibility for revenue control. We contact vendors, conduct necessary research for capital expenditures and coordinate the purchase of equipment compatible with other hospital departments.

At this time, no formal educational program exists for anesthesia technicians. However, technical organizations supporting these educational needs have been established in California, Colorado, and Washington, and legislation designed to promote professional training and accreditation is being discussed. In California, the California Association of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians are fortunate to have had an ongoing working relationship with the California Society of Anesthesiologists, one which provides a consistent liason and gives nurturing support.

Recently, the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians was formed. We see this as a forum for all technologists and technicians to share experiences, concerns, obtain further education, and establish appropriate certification guidelines. Individually, we see ourselves as responsible guardians of the anesthesia equipment, and essential pairs of experienced “helping hands”. We look to the anesthesia community for recognition and support.

Katherine Morgan, Anesthesia Technician President-Elect, Calif. Assoc. of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians