Anaesthesia associate

Anaesthesia associates (AA) are highly trained, skilled healthcare professionals who are qualified to deliver care before, during, and after surgery, including anaesthesia. They work under the supervision of a medically qualified anaesthetist. They were formerly known as Physicians Assistants (Anaesthesia), however the professional title has now been aligned with fellow Medical Associate Professions (MAP), including physician associates.

Anaesthesia associates work as part of the multi-disciplinary anaesthesia team to provide continuity and flexibility of care to patients undergoing a wide variety of surgical procedures.  

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To become an anaesthesia associate, you will need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • Maths
  • English
  • Human Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.

College and university

To become an anaesthesia associate, you must apply for a postgraduate trainee anaesthesia associate position within the NHS. Your Health Board will then sponsor you to achieve your postgraduate qualification as an anaesthesia associate.

There are two routes available to achieve one of these trainee positions:

Route 1

You must be a registered healthcare practitioner with:

  • a first degree in a health-related subject and evidence of recent (within three years) successful academic activity
  • at least 3 years of full-time, post-qualification experience in a relevant area

Route 2

You must be a new entrant to healthcare (a graduate or graduate equivalent) with:

  • a biomedical science or biological science degree
  • a demonstrable commitment to a career in healthcare

Accessing anaesthesia associate training

There are currently 2 universities in the UK which offer accredited postgraduate qualifications to become an anaesthesia associate:

Courses take 2 years to complete, with the postgraduate diploma also requiring an additional 3 months of supervised practice to conclude the training. The courses are delivered through a combination of distance learning and clinical placements.

Lancaster University will begin training in 2023.

You do not apply directly to the universities, as you will need to have secured a position as a trainee anaesthesia associate first.

The role

As an anaesthesia associate, you’ll provide anaesthetic services to patients before, during and after surgical procedures, working within anaesthesia, theatre and critical care environments. You will work within clearly defined boundaries, under the broad supervision of a consultant anaesthetist.

Although both fall under the umbrella term of Medical Associate Professionals, the roles of anaesthesia associate and physician associate are very different.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • interviewing patients before an operation
  • taking medical histories and performing physical examinations
  • developing and implementing the anaesthesia care plan
  • administering or aiding the administration of general, regional and local anaesthesia for a variety of surgical procedures
  • using a wide variety of techniques, anaesthesia agents, drugs and equipment in providing anaesthesia care
  • administering drugs as prescribed
  • interpreting and utilising data obtained from invasive and non-invasive monitoring equipment
  • positioning or supervising the positioning of patients to ensure patient safety
  • identifying and correcting anaesthesia equipment problems that might be a risk to patients
  • identifying common postoperative problems and acting accordingly
  • monitoring and maintaining a safe, clean, and therapeutic environment for patients, staff and visitors
  • teaching, supervising and assessing other team members

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • interest in science and healthcare
  • critical thinking
  • excellent communication skills
  • teamworking
  • organisational skills
  • calmness under pressure
  • resilience
  • compassion

Who you’ll work with

You could work with:

  • anaesthetists
  • surgeons
  • nurses
  • hospital doctors
  • general practitioners
  • operating department practitioners
  • clinical perfusion scientists
  • healthcare support workers
  • allied health professionals
  • other medical associate professionals

Working environment

You could work in:

  • surgical theatres
  • day surgery units
  • pre-operative assessment
  • accident and emergency departments

Useful information

In July 2019, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), with the support of the four UK governments, asked the General Medical Council (GMC) to regulate anaesthesia associates (AAs).

Once regulation starts all anaesthesia associates will require to register with the GMC to practice in the UK.

Did you know?

Approximately 180 anaesthesia associates are working in NHS hospitals across the UK.

Learning and development

The Association of Anaesthesia Associates (AAA) recommends that AAs undertake 50 hours of continuing professional development per year. 

Professional bodies

Once you qualify as an anaesthesia associate, you can join the:

The RCoA holds a voluntary register of anaesthesia associates. The General Medical Council encourages all qualified anaesthesia associates to join the register. You can apply to join the register on the RCoA website.