Anaesthetists administer different forms of anaesthetics to ensure patients pain free during and after surgical procedures.
Trainee anaesthetists usually earn
$112K-$166K per year
Experienced anaesthetists usually earn
$149K-$600K per year
Source: New Zealand District Health Boards, 'Senior Medical and Dental Officers Collective Agreement', 2016
Pay for anaesthetists and registrars (those in training) varies depending on seniority, hours, location and frequency of on-call or emergency cover.
- Registrars working for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $112,000 and $166,000 a year.
- Qualified anaesthetists working for a DHB usually earn between $149,000 and $216,000.
- Anaesthetists working in the private sector can earn more than this. Those at the top level may earn up to $600,000.
Sources: New Zealand District Health Boards, 'Senior Medical and Dental Officers Collective Agreement, 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016', 2016; and Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), '2013 to 2016 National DHB Collective Agreement (MECA)', 2016.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Anaesthetists may do some or all of the following:
- discuss the anaesthesia process with the patient and assess their medical status and pain management requirements
- talk to other medical specialists about the treatments and procedures before, during and after an operation
- decide on and administer anaesthetic drugs and techniques to patients before, during and after an operation
- continually monitor the patient's vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and breathing during surgery
- observe and care for the patient before, during and after their operation and counteract adverse reactions or complications
- record details of drugs given
- teach medical staff and students about anaesthesia practice
- carry out research on new drugs and treatments.
Skills and knowledge
Anaesthetists need to have knowledge of:
- diagnosis, medicines and treatments, and the effect these have on patients
- the effects of anaesthetics and other drugs on the body, and how to treat allergic reactions
- different diseases and illnesses
- anatomy and how the human body works
- using anaesthesia monitoring equipment
- medical ethics and law
- reviving and resuscitating people
- new research, treatments and practices in their field.
- usually work long and irregular hours, including evenings, nights and weekends
- work in hospitals and tertiary institutes
- may travel nationally or internationally to attend conferences.
What's the job really like?
Rewarding work with patients
"More often than not, patients never remember their anaesthetist – they just remember the surgeon," says Dr Angela Thomson. "But I know they’ve had a good anaesthetic when they wake up comfortable and say 'Thanks, I'm feeling great.' It's rewarding."
Reward, says Angela, also comes from the whole process going well. "Giving a good anaesthetic starts right from when you discuss the procedure with the patient and their family, through to taking them to theatre, giving the anaesthetic and helping the operation to proceed without a hitch."
Angela is a registrar, so is in the early stages of her training as an anaesthetist. This means her work involves shifts. "Usually shifts are from 7.30am to 6.00pm, and we also have two afternoons a week teaching built into our roster to reinforce the theoretical knowledge."
A specialist role with a lot of responsibility
The risks associated with anaesthetics are rare, says Angela, but the potential is there for every patient to have a life-threatening reaction. "You are taking the patient's life into your care and their safety relies on you being organised and vigilant.
"It counts for a lot to think that patients are putting their faith in you to do your best."
To become an anaesthetist you need to:
- complete the Health Sciences First Year programme at Otago University, or the first year of either the Bachelor of Health Sciences or Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science at Auckland University
- complete a five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree at Otago or Auckland University
- work for two years as a house officer (supervised junior doctor) in a hospital
- complete another five years of specialist training and examinations to become a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.
- Watch how to become an anaesthetist - video, 1.15 mins
- University of Otago website - information about the Health Sciences First Year programme
- University of Otago website - information about the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
- University of Auckland website - information about the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
- Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists website - information about specialist anaesthetist training
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include mathematics and statistics, chemistry, physics, biology and English.
Anaesthetists need to be:
- accurate and careful, with an eye for detail
- able to work well under pressure
- good at communicating and inspiring confidence in others
- excellent at analysis and interpretation
- able to make good decisions, and solve problems
- understanding of other cultures' attitudes to medical treatment.
Useful experience for anaesthetists includes:
- working as an anaesthetic technician
- working with the Red Cross or St John's Ambulance
- working in hospitals or other health-related work.
Anaesthetists need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination.
Anaesthetists need to be registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand.
Find out more about training
- Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists
- (04) 499 1213 - www.anzca.edu.au
- Medical Council of New Zealand
- 0800 286 801 - www.mcnz.org.nz
- New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists
- 04 494 0124 - email@example.com - www.anaesthesiasociety.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Anaesthetists are in demand due to:
- New Zealand's growing and ageing population, which means increasing demand for surgical procedures
- some anaesthetists moving overseas, particularly to Australia, for better pay and working conditions
- a worldwide shortage of specialist doctors, including anaesthetists, which means it is hard to attract anaesthetists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Anaesthetists work for public and private hospitals
Anaesthetists work in public or private hospitals, or a combination of both, and may also work in university medical schools.
- District health boards employ all the anaesthetists who work in public hospitals.
- Private hospitals usually employ anaesthetists on a casual basis.
- The medical schools at the University of Auckland and University of Otago employ anaesthetists in teaching and research roles.
- Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, ‘Hospital Specialist Shortage Even Grimmer Than Latest Figures Suggest says ASMS', 14 December 2015, (www.asms.org.nz).
- Edwards, J, 'Wellington Hospital Under Pressure as Patients Flood ICU', 8 April 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Ewart, S, communications manager, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2015.
- The New Zealand Anaesthesia Resource Review Group, 'Anaesthesia 2020', accessed August 2016, (www.moh.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Anaesthetists may progress to teaching students and trainee anaesthetists at larger hospitals, or work in research and academic areas. They may also become senior consultants with responsibility for anaesthesia departments.
Anaesthetists may specialise in areas such as:
- obstetric anaesthesia
- intensive care medicine
- pain medicine and related areas such as hyperbaric medicine (therapy that uses pure oxygen).
Last updated 11 January 2019