How to Become an Anesthesiologist

Medical Specialties

Anesthesiologist

What is an Anesthesiologist? 

An anesthesiologist is a physician who:


  • Mentally and physically prepares the patient for their procedure
  • Provides anesthesia to patients who will be undergoing procedures that require immobilization or sedation to be completed safely
  • Provides localized anesthesia to provide relief to specific parts of the patient’s body, such as epidurals during childbirth

Anesthesiologists often work alongside surgeons and other doctors who are performing surgery and other procedures while monitoring the patient’s vital signs throughout the whole process, including recovery. They are vital to almost every surgery; however, they can also be involved in not-surgical procedures for pain management such as childbirth.


Anesthesiologists are highly sought-after professionals who are responsible for keeping their patient comfortable and safe, and as a result, it is a very stressful but rewarding profession.

Duties of Anesthesiologist


  • Ensure the patient is physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of having the procedure
  • Create a plan for sedation or immobilization
  • Provide and administer intravenous drugs and/or inhaled gases to induce an unconscious state or numbing effect
  • Provide localized anesthesia for pain management
  • Monitor vital signs such as heart rate, breathing, and more before, during and after surgical procedures
  • Make decisions based on the condition of the patient during procedures, including emergency situations
  • Ensure the safety and comfort of the patient throughout the entire process

Anesthesiologists have an incredibly important and stressful job, keeping their patients comfortable and alive in otherwise dangerous or uncomfortable situations. They are the “guardian angels” of their patients, relieving pain and helping them through the stressful process that chronic pain and many surgical procedures can have.


Bonuses and Benefits of Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiologists often work in group practices and hospitals because they frequently work alongside surgeons and other doctors, and therefore usually receive a full suite of benefits from their practice. However, independent practices such as pain management offices will consist of a smaller team and likely not provide benefits.


Medical, dental, and vision coverage is very commonly offered to anesthesiologists by their practices. Additionally, for resident anesthesiologists and those who are continuing their education, tuition reimbursement can be offered to encourage further development of their skills. Due to the long hours that anesthesiologists can be required to work in an emergency, hospitals often provide meals and overnight accommodations for their staff as well.


Bonuses are not overly common in anesthesiology, but regular raises based upon performance, education, and experience are, particularly in competitive markets where there is a lack of qualified medical professionals.


Work Environment of Anesthesiologist

General Environment

1

Anesthesiologists will often work in professional environments indoors where they can safely treat patients. This can be an office building or a hospital setting, and often is accompanied by bright lights and high cleanliness standards for the safety of the patients.


The location of their general environment can vary greatly, including urban and rural environments due to the need for medical care all over the world. Those working in major hospitals will likely be located in a more urban environment in order to be easily accessible to the public, while private practices can be almost anywhere.

Work Environment

2

Anesthesiologists work in a variety of settings depending on their geographical location, experience, and expertise. Hospitals and clinics are a very common environment to work in due to the quantity of invasive procedures being conducted daily. However, for pain management and less intensive procedures such as localized anesthesia, outpatient facilities and private practices are frequently in need of anesthesiologists.

Office Environment 

3

Anesthesiologists do not often work alone, usually instead forming private practices along with other doctors to offer comprehensive care. Often an anesthesiologist will be a specialist that treats and consults on pain management within the practice, working alongside other specialists and a general practitioner.


The offices are usually comfortable and incredibly clean and will likely include professionals who handle secretarial duties such as managing patients’ files, answering patient concerns, and more.

Hospitals

4

Hospitals are one of the most common areas of practice for anesthesiologists. A variety of procedures are performed at hospitals, and anesthesiologists will often find themselves in the operating and recovery rooms monitoring the health of their patients besides surgeons and other doctors.


Depending on the hospital, they can be incredibly spacious and technologically advanced or smaller and less advanced. In general, they will be brightly lit sterile environments with comfortable climate control and a number of amenities including a cafeteria and proper facilities for long work hours.

Social Environment

5

Whether they are in a hospital, private practice, or outpatient facility, anesthesiologists will often be surrounded by other medical professionals as part of a team. They will work collaboratively to treat patients, and anesthesiologists will often meet multiple patients and work with multiple doctors and other health care professionals during a day, making it a very social job.

Outpatient Facilities

6

Anesthesiologists can often find themselves in outpatient facilities that specialize in physical therapy and pain management for those with pain-related to injuries or diseases such as cancer. Here they will often provide localized anesthesia to provide relief from chronic pain. Anesthesiologists in these facilities work in smaller teams because general anesthesia and sedation is not often required for the procedures, and the environment will be similar to a private practice or clinic.


Alternatively, at outpatient surgery facilities, anesthesiologists will work in teams similar to hospitals where they will monitor and care for their patients through the entire procedure.


These environments will be similar to hospitals for the safety of the patient due to the surgeries being performed; however, they will often not contain long-term accommodations. This is because the procedures are shorter and don’t require an overnight stay, often allowing patients to go home the same day and leading to more stable hours for the anesthesiologist.



Work Hours & Schedules of Anesthesiologist

For an anesthesiologist, the hours they work depends on their work environment. An anesthesiologist at a hospital would likely be on call 24 hours a day with an erratic schedule, and in the case of a lengthy surgery or shortage of available staff, they may work 12 or more hours consecutively in a day, multiple days a week.


However, at a private practice there is a lower chance that the anesthesiologist would be personally on call, as many practices have a variety of medical professionals such as general practitioners who are more frequently called upon to help most general emergencies. This could lead to regular 8-hour days, which are incredibly uncommon in the medical profession. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of regular hours for many medical professions, so anesthesiologists should always be prepared.


Important Qualities of Anesthesiologist

The qualities important to an anesthesiologist are those that many medical professionals share. These traits have allowed them to complete the rigorous schooling required to become doctors, and in combination with their knowledge allow them to safely administer anesthesia, treat pain, and take care of their patients. These traits are as follows:

Qualities

Exceptional attention to detail

Anesthesiologists are trusted with keeping their patients alive and comfortable with general anesthesia through dangerous procedures that could kill them if unsupervised. Anesthesia needs to be monitored and dosed incredibly accurately to ensure that the patient can fall asleep and stay asleep safely for the right amount of time without waking up or being unconscious for too long.


Throughout the process of administering anesthesia, they also need to carefully monitor vitals for any sign of an emergency, as just a few seconds can be the difference between a disaster and a safe procedure.


Additionally, it is important that the anesthesiologist pays close attention to the medical history of their patient and ensures there are no drug interactions or dangers to receiving anesthesia. They need to understand their patient’s circumstances perfectly in order to keep them safe and formulate an effective plan for their treatment.

Calm under pressure

Invasive surgeries are stressful for all parties involved, especially for the person who is in charge of keeping the patient comfortable and alive. Even when correctly managed, general anesthesia can still cause problems with blood pressure, breathing, and more during the surgery.

When a life-threatening event occurs, it is up to the anesthesiologist to react calmly and effectively in order to remedy the problem and possibly save the patient’s life. Seconds of hesitation can mean the difference between life and death, so the ability to focus and work without panic is vital to the success of an anesthesiologist and the safety of their patient.

Good communication skills

An often-forgotten duty of an anesthesiologist is to communicate with their patient to gather information, address concerns, and gauge recovery post-op. Before undergoing a procedure, patients are often going to have questions and be anxious about the whole process.

It is the job of the anesthesiologist to address anxiety and concerns while physically, mentally, and emotionally preparing the patient for the anesthesia. After the procedure, they will also need to follow up with the recovery from the anesthesia, monitoring vitals and taking care of the patient.

Communication with other surgical team members is incredibly important as well. During a procedure, each member in the operating room has a job and they need to be in constant communication to address any problems that arise to ensure the safety of the patient. This is especially true in the case of an emergency, where clear and swift decision making is vital.

Creative problem solver

Much of medical care breaks down to problem solving, and anesthesiology is no exception. With little information outside of vitals, an anesthesiologist needs to address any problems that occur during the anesthesia or procedure and apply their problem-solving skills to remedy the problem safely.

For example, if during a surgical procedure a patient’s blood pressure begins to drop, the anesthesiologist needs to notice the problem, discover the cause of the problem, and work with the surgical team to fix it before it gets worse.

In the case of pain management, the anesthesiologist needs to find out the symptoms the patient is experiencing, diagnose the problem, and come up with a treatment plan to offer relief with limited information.

Physically and emotionally resilient

Anesthesiology is a physically and emotionally demanding job. Long hours and high-stress situations are taxing on even the strongest people, but it is important to be able to function at a high level regardless of a lack of sleep, fatigue, or being affected by emotions. Working on a patient having surgery requires laser-like focus and awareness. If an anesthesiologist allows themselves to become distracted or lose focus, they can miss something and put their patient in danger.

Additionally, accidents and unexpected complications happen and can lead to damage or death for their patients. An anesthesiologist cannot become deterred or allow it to take a toll on their work, as even the very best doctors in the world are not perfect and some factors are out of their control. The ability to learn from mistakes and constantly work to improve their skills through hardship is a vital aspect of an anesthesiologist’s personality.


Similar Occupation


Although they usually specialize in administering anesthesia and managing pain, anesthesiologists are highly qualified medical professionals who are capable of

easily transitioning to similar fields requiring a similar level of knowledge about the human body. Additionally, skills like creative problem solving and the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively qualifies them for a variety of jobs from surgeon to general practitioner. Below is a list of jobs you can consider that are similar to an anesthesiologist.



Projected Future of an Anesthesiologist

Career Prospects

According to the USNews.com, as different specializations of anesthesiology arise, the roles they perform and the opportunities a career in anesthesiology offer increases. While in the past anesthesiologists were primarily isolated to operating rooms, their skills have allowed them to expand into a wide array of medical fields including radiology, electrophysiology, pain management, and more.


Pursuing a career in anesthesiology also allows for easy transition to alternative professions due to the globally applicable skills learned, making it a great career to pursue with plenty of options available to consider before deciding on a specific profession.


Job Outlook

Despite the high barrier of entry for new anesthesiologists, they have a solid job outlook and a low unemployment rate in the US – about .5% (USNews.com). As the population increases, the need for medical professionals increases, especially those with high educational requirements like anesthesiologists. In fact, it is estimated that the need for anesthesiologists will increase in the US by nearly 20% by 2026.


Geographically, the need for anesthesiologists is higher where the population density is greater due to the sheer number of medical procedures that require anesthesia being performed in hospitals. The need is also expected to be higher in lower income and rural areas where preventative health care is poor, leading to more procedures being required.

                                                 Potential Increase


As time goes on, technology is advancing and some estimate that doctors may be phased out of some medical procedures. However, for professions like anesthesiologists who work closely with patients, the ability for technology to replace the human influence is low. It is more likely that as technology advances, the range of jobs a highly skilled medical professional like an anesthesiologist can perform will increase, increasing the demand and job outlook.

 Career Options


When it comes to anesthesiology, there are primarily two classifications of career options that anesthesiologists pursue: surgical and non-surgical.


  • Surgical

A surgical anesthesiologist will often administer general anesthesia, which involves immobilization or sedation of their patients in preparation for surgery. They will also monitor the patient before, during, and after the procedure in order to ensure that they are comfortable and healthy. These anesthesiologists often work in hospitals and surgery outpatient centers, working closely with surgeons and other medical professionals.


  • Non-surgical

Non-surgical anesthesiologists often will administer localized anesthesia in an effort to reduce pain. This can stem from injuries and damage from diseases like cancer or help to reduce the pain caused by childbirth by performing an epidural. These anesthesiologists often work in private practices, clinics, and non-surgical outpatient facilities that specialize in pain management and physical rehabilitation.


How to Become an Anesthesiologist

1. Bachelor's degree

Emphasize advanced sciences, particularly biology and subjects relating to the human body in high school, and volunteer at a Hospital to familiarize yourself with the profession.


Enroll in a pre-med bachelor’s degree program at an accredited school, emphasizing organic sciences like biology

2. Medical school / Work in hospital

Maintain exceptional marks, pass the Medical College Admissions Test, and volunteer or work at a hospital to gain experience and improve your chances or being admitted to a medical school.


Get accepted into a medical school and complete 4 years of studies, earning your M.D.


3. A four-year residency

Get accepted to and complete a 4-year residency that focuses on anesthesiology, completing an additional year in order to specialize in a specific area of practice if you choose to do so.

4. State-licensing exam

Complete the United States Medical Licensing Examination and receive a license to practice in your state.


Become board certified by completing an exam showcasing your skills.


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