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What is an Anesthesiologist?

An Anesthesiologist is a specialized type of Doctor. Also known as: Obstetrical Anesthesiologist, Attending Anesthesiologist.

An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor who keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic. Once the patient enters the operating room, an anesthesiologist will be by their side throughout the surgery, making sure they are stable right through to the post-anesthesia care unit. Anesthesiology is a prestigious and lucrative field of medicine, but requires a great deal of education and expertise.

What does an Anesthesiologist do?

An anesthesiologist will meet with the patient prior to surgery to make sure they are suitably prepared and medically fit to endure the proposed surgery as well as the related anesthetic. Once they have done this, just before the surgery, the anesthesiologist will administer either a general or local anesthetic to the patient.

During the surgery, the anesthesiologist will monitor the patient's blood pressure, heart rhythm, temperature, level of consciousness, and amount of oxygen in the blood. For a general anesthetic, the anesthesiologist will monitor each breath. This is done by measuring the volume of breath exhaled and the amount of carbon dioxide in each breath. They may also measure the amount of blood the heart is pumping and blood pressure inside the lung vessels.

After putting the patient to sleep, the anesthesiologist will adjust the patient's position if necessary, depending on the surgery being performed. For example, a back operation will require a different position than a stomach operation. Also checking to make sure a patient doesn't have his legs crossed is important, as the patient can potentially sustain nerve damage if the legs are crossed for the duration of a long operation.

Some of the anesthesiologist's duties during surgery include:

  • Continuous monitoring of vital signs
  • Monitoring of the level and depth of anesthesia
  • Making adjustments if necessary
  • Recognition of any potentially life threatening emergencies and timely intervention
  • Ensuring the safety of the patient and taking appropriate steps to avoid any injuries to the patient’s body during the anesthetic period

Obstetrical anesthesiologists also help with pain management during childbirth. They discuss pain management options with the mother, and administer an epidural anesthetic if the mother decides that she wants it. They watch over the mother and if the labor is long, or the epidural wears off, they provide another dose.

They may also work with patients who need pain management for other issues outside of the operating room and delivery room. They provide after care for patients who have had surgery and still require some sort of pain management. They may also work in emergency rooms, and help with patients who need immediate pain relief or sedation.

What is the workplace of an Anesthesiologist like?

Anesthesiologists often work in high stress situations, where a great deal of concentration and alertness is necessary, such as in the operating room. They also work in many outpatient facilities, and they will often have to work with people who are recovering from an operation, or those who need pain management treatment.

How can I become an Anesthesiologist?

In terms of education, the following is the typical path to becoming an anesthesiologist in the United States (please note that each country may vary in their requirements):

  • Graduate from high school, paying special attention to science classes (biology, chemistry, physics & physiology).

  • Get a bachelor's degree from a university (four years). While there is no 'major' requirement, it would be wise to major in either biology, neuroscience, chemistry or nutritional science.

  • Take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). You can prepare for this test by taking practice exams, or enrolling in an MCAT preparatory course. Your scores from this exam plus your transcript will be the basis of your acceptance to medical school.

  • Medical school will take four years to complete. You will either earn a Doctor of Medicine degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, both of which will qualify you to become an anesthesiologist.

  • Anesthesiology residency will take four years to complete. Residents will receive clinical training where they will work in a hospital and provide medical care to patients under supervision. After the four years of residency are complete, the resident will be eligible to take the American Board of Anesthesiology examination. Note that many physicians at this point decide to complete an additional one-year fellowship after their four-year residency. This allows them to focus on a specialized field like cardiac or pediatric anesthesiology.

  • The physician will need to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and/or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) to obtain licensure to practice medicine in the US.

  • Board certification is optional. Not all anesthesiologists are board-certified, but most (90%) are. Board certification demonstrates a physicians' expertise and commitment to the practice. Completing the anesthesiology board certification exams indicates mastery of anesthesiology, as well as a professional commitment to adhere to the ABPS Medical Code of Ethics.



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Further Reading

  • Anesthesiology Jobs

    While many people may believe that anesthesiology is just for “putting people to sleep” for surgery, anesthesiologists are responsible for much more including preoperative patient assessments, determining the best anesthesia for the patient and caring for the patient as they wake up or recover from anesthetic medications.

  • The Time Is Right To Opt For Anesthesiology

    Guiding patients who are fearful about an invasive procedure and taking them safely from induction to recovery is an enormous honor and privilege

  • My Week: Anaesthetist Andrew Hartle

    I decided to become an anaesthetist after being present during a caesarean as a medical student. The woman was awake when her baby was born, and I thought that was brilliant.

  • A Day In The Life

    Anesthesiology Residency Program

  • Anesthesiologist's Salary

    Anesthesiologist's salary is the highest compared to other health care professionals in the field of medicine.

  • What Is A Physician Anesthesiologist?

    Physician anesthesiologists are primarily responsible for the safety and well-being of patients before, during and after surgery.

  • What Is An Anesthesiologist?

    Anesthesiologists are physicians specializing in perioperative care, development of an anesthetic plan, and the administration of anesthetics.

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