An anesthesiologist is a highly trained and skilled medical doctor who specializes in the field of anesthesiology. He or she is an essential part of any operating room where the patient needs anesthesia for surgery. If you’re thinking about becoming an anesthesiologist, there’s a lot you need to learn about this field. Keep reading to discover more about anesthesiologists, the education they need, average salary, daily duties, and more.
The main role of an anesthesiologist in the operating room is to provide the patient with the right amount of anesthesia for surgery. His or her primary responsibility is the well-being of the patient before, during, and after surgery. Therefore, he or she will monitor the patient’s breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate while administering the anesthesia needed to keep the patient sedated.
This can include placing the patient in a state of controlled unconsciousness, which is called “general anesthesia,” using regional anesthetics to make only a certain part of the body numb, or administering sedation to relieve anxiety. The anesthesiologist will also adjust the amount of anesthesia as necessary.
Not only will anesthesiologists work in the operating room, but they can also provide pain relief for women in labor, patients in the intensive care unit, and patients who suffer from chronic pain. They’ll work with surgeons and other physicians to come up with treatment plans before, during, and after surgery. Additionally, they can also supervise nurse anesthetists as they provide anesthesia to patients.
Education and Experience Needed
Anesthesiologists must start out completing four years of undergraduate studies. They’ll typically major in a field related to medicine, such as chemistry, biology, or pre-medical. Once they get their bachelor’s degree, they’ll have at least eight years of post-graduate studies. This includes four years of medical school, one year with an anesthesiology internship, and a minimum of three years completing a residency.
Additionally, anesthesiologists who are interested in entering a specialty, such as pediatric or obstetric anesthesiology, will participate in a one-year fellowship.
During the first year of the residency program, students will gain experience by administering basic anesthesia under supervision. By the second year, students start working in different sub-specialties, such as cardiovascular and critical care. In the third year, students will begin handling complex cases as they continue to narrow down a preferred specialty.
Additionally, some programs include an academic track in the third year for students who would prefer entering the research field of anesthesiology.
Some students choose to gain certification from the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) or the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) by taking and passing a certification exam. As of January 2017, both exams have an oral section and a written section. The written section has 200 multiple-choice questions.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that physicians and surgeons are some of the highest-paid occupations, anesthesiologists earn among the largest salaries in this group. In fact, the BLS reports that in 2015, the median annual compensation for an anesthesiologist was $453,687. However, keep in mind that earnings will vary depending on location, years in practice, and hours worked.
Average Duties and Tasks
Anesthesiologists work in a fast-paced environment that’s different from one day to the next. Most will arrive at the hospital early in the morning to get started on the surgeries for that day. They’ll look over the paperwork for the patients they have that day to make sure there aren’t any issues missed before the surgery. Once the patient is unconscious, the anesthesiologist’s main duty is to watch the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and response to surgery.
However, the anesthesiologist will also perform small tasks to help keep the patient comfortable while unconscious, such as lubricating his or her eyes and keeping his or her arms and legs in a comfortable position. As soon as that patient moves into recovery, the anesthesiologist comes back into the operating room and prepares everything for the next patient.
Even anesthesiologists can find areas for advancement opportunities in their field. If they started out in general practice, they can move into a specialty as they gain more experience. If they’d like to continue working in a hospital, they can transition to an administrative or managerial role. Another option they have is to go into private practice. They can choose to do this with other doctors or go on their own and work with patients referred by other doctors or hospitals.
If you’re interested in becoming an anesthesiologist, you’ll find yourself in a critical role in the operating room. Consider all the information you learned here to decide if this is a good career fit for you.