Registered Nurse Assistant to the Anaesthetist

In 2012 the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand and the Nursing Council of New Zealand released a joint communications statement on anaesthetic nursing.  Under the direction of this joint communication statement the Perioperative Nurses College of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation has agreed ‘to develop a definition and competencies/skills/standards for anaesthetic nurses’. This resulted in the Perioperative Nurses College developing a Skills & Knowledge Framework for the Registered Nurse Assistant to the Anaesthetist (RNAA). This consultation document was widely circulated to Key Stakeholders in April 2014.  The Technical Advisory Services group (TAS), at the request of the Ministry of Health, released a report in early 2019 identifying the ongoing need to increase the supply of anaesthetic assistants in New Zealand.  This included recommendations for all DHBs to increase Anaesthetic Technician trainee numbers and to consider the RNAA training programme provided by Southern Cross Hospitals.  

Southern Cross Hospitals (supported by NZ Private Surgical Hospitals) have developed a training programme which builds upon holistic comprehensive nursing knowledge in the field of registered nurse assistant to the anaesthetist, and incorporates the requirements of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (2016) PS08 document ‘Recommendations on the Assistant to the Anaesthetist’.

The programme recognises prior nursing competence, enabling suitably experienced perioperative (PACU, OR), ICU or ED registered nurses to complete within 11 months (FT) and 17 months PT (0.6 FTE).   In addition, registered nurses with 2 years full time equivalent experience in the anaesthetic assistant role (current or recent) may apply to complete a fast track option which enables verification of competence to the ANZCA PS08 standard. The programme was given the support of ANZCA in July 2018 and is currently running successfully in both private and public hospitals across NZ.

Applicants are invited from any registered nurses working in private surgical hospitals or DHBs.   Partner providers of the SCH RNAA Programme are required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that the programme specifications are met prior to commencement.   The programme is routinely delivered in summer, winter and spring but additional intakes can be provided throughout the year where there is a minimum cohort of 4 RNs from across NZ.

There is considerable interest from nursing and the perioperative community regarding the assistant to the anaesthetist field of nursing. This PNC web link is designed to provide information on nursing regulation in relation to the nurse assistant to the anaesthetist, workforce issues and RNAA knowledge and skills criteria. The ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ Fact Sheet will continue to be updated as well adding newsletters and promotional flyers.

TAS are currently facilitating a workshop for all anaesthetic assistants in NZ to agree common competencies to ensure consistency across the workforce.  This work is due to be completed by the end of 2020.

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