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Anaesthetist

Kairehu

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Anaesthetists give anaesthesia (gas or injections to prevent pain) during surgery and other procedures. They assess patients and resuscitate them if necessary.

Pay

Trainee anaesthetists usually earn

$72K-$124K per year

Experienced anaesthetists usually earn

$151K-$212K per year

Source: Assn of Salaried Medical Specialists and NZ Resident Doctors' Assn, 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an anaesthetist are good due to increasing demand.

Pay

Pay for anaesthetists and registrars (those in training) varies depending on seniority, hours, location and how often they provide on-call or emergency cover.

  • Anaesthetic registrars working for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $72,000 and $124,000 a year.
  • Qualified anaesthetists working for a DHB usually earn between $151,000 and $212,000.
  • Anaesthetists working in the private sector may earn more than this. Those at the top level can earn up to $600,000.

Sources: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), '2017 to 2020 DHB Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA)' accessed February 2109; and NZ Resident Doctors' Association, '2017 to 2018 DHB Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA)', accessed February 2019.

(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:

  • assess and treat patients before, during and after an operation, and plan their pain management
  • talk to other medical specialists about patients' treatments
  • decide on and administer anaesthesia (gas or injections to prevent pain) to patients
  • monitor patients' vital signs (such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and breathing)
  • resuscitate (revive) patients 
  • record details of drugs they give to patients
  • 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:

  • the effects of anaesthetics and other drugs on the body, and how to treat allergic reactions
  • diagnoses, medicines and treatments, and the effect these can have on different patients
  • different diseases and illnesses
  • anatomy and how the human body works
  • how to use specialised equipment to give and monitor anaesthetics
  • medical ethics and law
  • how to resuscitate (revive) patients
  • new research, treatments and practices in their field.

Working conditions

Anaesthetists:

  • usually work long and irregular hours, including on call, evenings, nights and weekends
  • work in hospitals
  • may travel nationally or internationally to attend conferences.

What's the job really like?

Courtney Thomas

Courtney Thomas

Specialist Anaesthetist

Ko Ngāi Tahu me Te Arawa ōku iwi. Ko Courtney Thomas ahau.

Why did you decide to become an anaesthetist?

"I decided to pursue medicine, with the encouragement of my whānau, after watching my mother’s journey through the hospital system with a terminal illness. The idea of gaining entry to a respected profession where I might develop the skills necessary to help others in the way my mother and whānau had been helped, appealed to me.

"At first I was thinking about a career in surgery. However, after exposure to anaesthesia as a senior house officer and then as a registrar, I knew I had found my people.

"Anaesthetists stood out as understated, clever people. They need an intimate knowledge of applied science, along with practical skills to resuscitate critically unwell patients. They are communicators who reassure patients and manage team dynamics in the busy theatre environment.

"Their attention to detail and the intense commitment to each patient in their care provided both the challenge and reward I was after."

What are the pluses and minuses of becoming an anaesthetist?

"Getting through training is challenging, but so is anything in life that is rewarding and worthwhile.

"A career in anaesthesia has opened many doors, including travel, further study and a chance to meet some of the most humble yet expert and inspiring individuals I have ever known.

"As a young mum I now have a career that I love, and is flexible to the needs of my whānau. I wouldn't have it any other way!"

Entry requirements

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 supervised junior doctor in a hospital
  • complete five years of specialist training and pass examinations to become a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

 You also need to be registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand.

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. 

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include NCEA Level 3 biology, chemistry, maths, physics, English and te reo Māori.

Personal requirements

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
  • aware of attitudes to medical treatment in different cultures
  • able to work with other health care practitioners including nurses, surgeons, anaesthetic technicians and midwives.

Useful experience

Useful experience for anaesthetists includes:

  • working with the Red Cross or St John's Ambulance
  • working in hospitals or other health-related work.

Physical requirements

Anaesthetists need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination.

Registration

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 436 555 - www.mcnz.org.nz
New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists
04 494 0124 - nzsa@anaesthesia.nz - www.anaesthesiasociety.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Number of anaesthetists rising steadily

The number of anaesthetists is growing, with 1,020 anaesthetists registered in 2018 – up from 974 the year before, according to the Medical Council of New Zealand.

About 50 people graduate as anaesthetists each year.

Demand for anaesthetists growing

Demand for anaesthetists is increasing due to:

  • New Zealand's growing and ageing population, which means more demand for surgery and pain management
  • new procedures, such as stroke clot removal, which require anaesthesia
  • existing anaesthetists reaching retirement
  • increasing numbers of anaesthetists wanting to work part time or job share
  • some anaesthetist graduates leaving to work overseas
  • a worldwide shortage of specialist doctors, including anaesthetists, which means it's hard to attract anaesthetists from overseas to work in New Zealand

Most anaesthetist vacancies not advertised

A number of anaesthetist vacancies are advertised through word of mouth, or only locally. This means your chances of securing a job are best if you contact hospitals directly.

Most anaesthetists work in public and private hospitals

Anaesthetists usually work in public hospitals. They may work on a casual basis in private hospitals. 

A small number of anaesthetists work at Auckland and Otago university medical schools, as teachers and researchers.

Sources

  • Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, 'New Zealand National Committee Annual Report for January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017', accessed June 2019, (www.ansca.edu.au).
  • Hagen, K, president, New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists, careers.govt.nz interview, February 2019.
  • Macandrew, R, 'Blood Clot Removal Procedure Opens Up World of Stroke Research Possibilities', 18 October 2018, (www.stuff.co.nz).
  • Medical Council of New Zealand, 'Annual Report 2018', 2018, (www.mcnz.org.nz).
  • Woods, J, chair, New Zealand National Committee, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, careers.govt.nz interview, February 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Anaesthetists may progress to teach 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 at hospitals.

Anaesthetists may specialise in areas such as:

  • cardiac anaesthesia (during heart and lung surgery)
  • obstetric anaesthesia (during childbirth)
  • paediatric anaesthesia (for children)
  • intensive care medicine
  • pain medicine and related areas such as hyperbaric medicine (therapy that uses pure oxygen).
An anaesthetist talks to a patient lying in bed in an operating theatre

Anaesthetists provide pain relief before, during and after surgery (Photo: New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists)

Last updated 20 June 2019