How to Become a Nurse Anaesthetist

Updated 16 October 2023

Working in healthcare can be an extremely rewarding career path. If you're considering a career working in anaesthetics or if you're a current nurse looking to progress your career, then a role as a nurse anaesthetist could be for you. Learning about the requirements needed to become an anaesthetic nurse might help you to decide if this specialised career is one you wish to pursue. In this article, we discuss what a nurse anaesthetist does, salary expectations for the role and the steps you can take to become a nurse anaesthetist.

What is a nurse anaesthetist?

A nurse anaesthetist is a caregiver within the anaesthesia team. They administer general anaesthetic, monitor patients' vital signs, provide pre-surgical assessments and post-surgical care. Most often, nurse anaesthetists work within acute care units such as accident and emergency wards or intensive care units. Key skills and qualities required of those working as a nurse anaesthetist include:

  • Ability to remain calm under pressure

  • Resilient to stressful or high-pressure environments

  • Emotional intelligence and empathy

  • Excellent time management

  • Organisational skills and the ability to prioritise effectively

  • Strong communication and teamwork skills

As healthcare professionals that work within the field of anaesthesia, upon completion of their diploma they may register to be members of the Royal College of Anaesthetists' voluntary register. As part of the anaesthesia team, nurse anaesthetists work as part of a larger team of medical professionals to provide care for patients. Some of the colleagues they may work with on a daily basis include anaesthetists, theatre nurses, surgeons and doctors specialising in emergency medicine.

Related: How to Become an Anaesthesia Technician (With Definition)

What does a nurse anaesthetist do?

A nurse anaesthetist, also known as an anaesthesia associate, provides anaesthesia, respiratory care and other emergency or life-sustaining services within the anaesthesia and critical care environments. They work under the close supervision of a consultant anaesthetist and there are clear boundaries set as to what the nurse anaesthetist can and cannot do. Some examples of their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Conducting preoperative patient interviews

  • Taking patient information, including medical history, physical examinations, laboratory, radiographic and other diagnostic data

  • Implementing anaesthesia care plans

  • Administering general anaesthetic for surgical or medically related procedures

  • Administering drugs as prescribed

  • Identifying postoperative problems and taking appropriate actions

Whether they're working in an NHS hospital, private hospital or clinic setting, nurse anaesthetists play an important role within the multidisciplinary anaesthesia team. Under the supervision of a consultant anaesthetist, they carry out general nursing and care duties to support the wellbeing of patients both before, during and after anaesthesia.

What is the difference between an anaesthesia associate and a consultant anaesthetist?

The difference between an anaesthesia associate, or nurse anaesthetist, and a consultant anaesthetist is that a consultant anaesthetist leads the anaesthesia team whereas anaesthesia associates carry out nursing duties in the anaesthetic area under the supervision of the consultant. Consultant anaesthetists are doctors who specialise in anaesthesia, whereas nurse anaesthetists are considered medical practitioners rather than doctors.

Nurse anaesthetist average salary

The average salary for an anaesthetist is £43,100 per annum in the UK but can increase to up to £73,000 for experienced anaesthetists. This broad range accounts for junior or associate anaesthetists through to more senior members of the anaesthesia team. The salary for an anaesthetist may vary depending on location, employer, education and experience.

Related: What is an Anaesthesia Assistant? (Plus How to Become one)

Steps to become a nurse anaesthetist

As with many careers within the medical field, formal training is an essential part of the pathway to becoming a qualified nurse anaesthetist. The route to becoming a nurse anaesthetist varies depending on whether you are currently a registered healthcare practitioner or if you are entirely new to the medical field. However, the steps below provide a general outline of the process of becoming a nurse anaesthetist, with special considerations included in each step for those already working in healthcare roles such as nurses:

1. Decide if you would like to become an anaesthesia associate or a consultant anaesthetist

There are a number of roles within anaesthesia and those pursuing a career in this area should consider the different career paths available. Those wishing to lead anaesthesia teams and further their formal education may wish to pursue a career as a consultant anaesthetist. However, becoming an anaesthesia associate is a great way to begin your career in anaesthesia, with the possibility of further training and development always available.

Related: How to Choose a Career Path

2. Complete an undergraduate degree in biomedical or biological science

Those new to healthcare who are interested in training as a nurse anaesthetist must graduate with a degree from a biomedical or biological science background, preferably with second-class honours or better. Undergraduate degrees in biomedical science, or similar, are typically between three to six years in duration depending on whether a hospital placement is included. Places on medical degrees can be competitive, so any relevant volunteering experience candidates can gain in healthcare will certainly support their application. Although requirements vary depending on the institution, entry requirements for biomedical or biological science degrees typically include:

  • A minimum of three A levels

  • At least two A levels in science or mathematics subjects

  • Mathematics, English and physics or chemistry GCSEs at grade C or higher

  • Providing a personal essay or personal statement

  • Engaging in extracurricular activities and undertaking volunteer work is usually an asset

For individuals already working as registered healthcare practitioners, such as a nurse or operating department practitioner, they need only demonstrate three years of post-qualification work experience and evidence of recent, successful academic activity.

3. Undertake training in a hospital

After graduating, or following three years of experience as a registered healthcare practitioner, individuals can apply for trainee anaesthesia associate positions. As a trainee anaesthesia associate, you will continue to learn from a consultant anaesthetist and the anaesthesia team whilst gaining invaluable work experience in the field. Some of the skills and qualities recruiters look for when hiring trainee anaesthesia associates include:

  • A demonstrable commitment to a career in healthcare

  • An interest in science

  • Strong attention to detail

  • Effective communication skills, as you'll be working with patients and other healthcare professionals

  • Good organisation skills

  • Ability to remain calm under pressure

For those currently working in healthcare as registered healthcare practitioners, undertaking anaesthesia courses or training will be beneficial when applying for trainee anaesthesia associate or nurse anaesthetist positions.

Related: Letter for Shadowing (With Definition, Steps and Tips)

4. Take the Physicians' Assistant (Anaesthesia) Postgraduate Diploma

Once you've secured a trainee anaesthesia associate position, you'll be required to undertake the Physicians' Assistant (Anaesthesia) Postgraduate Diploma. This is a 27-month programme that includes academic study, clinical training and, finally, three months of supervised practice. Topics that are covered during the programme include:

  • The anaesthesia machine and monitoring

  • The heart and circulation

  • The lungs and airways

  • Management of life-threatening emergencies

  • Clinical practice

For those wishing to further their career in anaesthesia, there are additional training programmes available. For example, intermediate anaesthetic training covers topics such as cardiothoracic and neuro anaesthesia, then higher and advanced training programmes allow individuals to further develop their expertise. While further postgraduate training is not required of nurse anaesthetists, undertaking further training and education can prepare nurse anaesthetists for promotion opportunities and career development within the area of anaesthesia.

5. Gain work experience in your area of interest

For nurse anaesthetists looking to specialise in a particular area of healthcare, gaining relevant work experience is important. As well as the traditional hospital setting, anaesthetists may work in the following more specialised areas:

  • Providing care for patients in chronic pain clinics

  • Providing anaesthesia for those undergoing electroconvulsive therapy in psychiatric units

  • Providing sedation and anaesthesia for patients undergoing radiology or radiotherapy treatments

For nurse anaesthetists pursuing careers outside of the traditional hospital setting, such as teaching or research, gaining relevant work experience will help them to make an effective transition from a hospital environment to the workplace of their choosing.

Related: Work Experience: Definition, Importance and Tips

6. Continue your professional development

After gaining experience working as a nurse anaesthetist, some may wish to pursue further education and career development to become a consultant anaesthetist. To do so, further formal education is required. However, those working in anaesthesia may also consider progressing their careers by pursuing management, teaching or research roles within the field of anaesthesia. Your employer may offer programmes or training opportunities that you can pursue to further your development.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.


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