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NZATS Update – Anaesthetic Technician Workforce – updated 4 October

NZATS update October 1st –  Anaesthetic Technician Workforce

On the 25th of September a hui was held in response to the Technical Advisory Services of the DHBs (TAS) Anaesthetic Assistant Workforce, here, late last year. Invitations were sent out by TAS to key stakeholders, including NZATS, supporters of the Southern Cross Registered Nurse Assistant to the Anaesthetist (RNAA) programme, education providers, regulatory authorities, other professional body representation and anaesthetists.  Minutes of the meeting can be found here on the NZATS website.

Despite the highly emotive topic of the future of the anaesthetic assistant workforce and the potential conflicting opinions, the day was filled with insightful and respectful dialogue.

The most impacting piece of news for the AT workforce was the announcement from AUT that:

The 2020 intake of students will be the final intake into the Diploma of Applied Science (Anaesthetic Technology).

  • After 2020 there will be no further intakes into the diploma
  • AUT has guaranteed to support the intake of the 2020 students until graduation.

The background of this decision by AUT comes from the directive from the Ministry of Education stating universities are not to offer less than degree programs.

This is very concerning to NZATS as it has the potential to have a massive impact on the Anaesthetic Technician workforce if not dealt with carefully and in a timely manner.  Crucially AUT has said they will support the transition from the diploma to a degree program.

Negotiations are well underway for preparing a degree program and NZATS will be working very closely with AUT during this transition. To ensure the profession has representation in these forums,  NZATS membership is vital and we urge all Registered Anaesthetic Technicians to ensure your membership is up to date.

AUT have previously stated the barrier to creating a degree program is their requirement for MSC to mandate a degree.  MSC has no requirement for a degree with the current scope of practice however  they did state that if AUT submitted a degree program for accreditation that met the requirements, then MSC have the power to do so.

Another important piece of information that came to light was a statement from MSC that no hospital has submitted an extended scope of practice for “Scrub practice”.  There is a strong desire in the healthcare sector for flexible professionals.  With many ODPs/ODAs contributing to the NZ AT workforce it seems like an untapped opportunity for hospitals to use the pool of skills/resources of our British trained colleagues.

The outcomes identified from the meeting, as per the minutes, are: 

  1. Establish a joint working group to define the core competencies for a unified Anaesthetic Assistant Workforce which provide a greater level of detail than PS08 by the end of 2019. This work to be done under the sponsorship of the Directors of Allied Health, Scientific and Technical (DAHST) and Directors of Nursing, with participation from professional bodies, unions and the NZ Society of Anaesthetists. The aim is to complete this work by the end of the year. TAS will develop an initial project timeline and share with the group.
  2. Establish a joint working group to identify flexible and inclusive opportunities for training. Training will ideally be centrally coordinated and locally delivered, with different entry pathways. Training will be required to meet a national competency-based standard with competency assessment via a variety of means. Working with key stakeholders TAS will facilitate the initiation of this group.
  3. Work with the Workforce Directorate at the Ministry of Health to undertake demand modelling to inform workforce planning for this workforce cognisant of changing models of care and service delivery projections. CAHPO to progress.
  4. Request via the Workforce Strategy Group that all DHB’s commit to undertake training of the anaesthetic assistant workforce and request a joint procurement process to contract Anaesthetic Technician locums. TAS workforce team to progress.

In the interests of being fully informed, we asked questions to AUT on September 30 and they gave the following responses:

  1. Will you please confirm your statement that 2020 will be the final intake of the diploma program
    1. Correct, we have agreed with the Ministry that 2020 will be the last year for a diploma intake.
  2. Will there be a bridging period with the diploma program whilst the degree commences?
    1. If we have a commitment and agreement on the degree we would work with stakeholders to address this. We fully appreciate the possible disruption and I am sure we could deliver different pathways.
  3. How will be a period without graduates be prevented if bridging does not occur?
    1. We would work with stakeholders to minimise this, but potentially increasing the intake significantly could address this.
  4. Will AUT be submitting a degree program to MSC for accreditation?
    1. This is the discussion that needs to be agreed upon urgently. We will not offer a degree when the RA only mandates a diploma. This is just not a viable option for us. Why would we offer something that is above the minimum standards?  The MSC needs to signal that the degree is the minimum standard. We would then submit our proposed programme.
  5. Would this be before any TAS mandated meeting?
    1. This is entirely up to the MSC, but we are willing to co=operate fully and give this priority.
  6. What would be the proposed start date?
    1. As I mentioned if we had this agreement we could offer the degree beginning semester one next year
  7. Can AUT share any timeframes they are working towards?
    1. Again the MSC needs to provide leadership in this area. As stated above we could deliver a degree programme from next year.

Please communicate directly with me at if you have any questions or concerns in regard to this communique.

Kirstin Fraser

NZATS Chairperson