Last Updated: August 03, 2021
Anesthesiologist as a Career
Anesthesiology, in simple terms, is a discipline wherein one specializes in the utilization and the application of anesthetics or anesthesia. It involves the detailed study of human physiology, anatomy (essentially neuroanatomy), biochemistry, pharmacology, and medical physics.
An anesthesiologist is a physician (M.D. or D.O.) specializing in medicine relating to anesthesiology. An anesthesiologist is also known as a medical practitioner, who would administer anesthesia or injections throughout a surgical procedure. However, the job of an anesthesiologist requires them to not only provide the correct type of anesthesia carefully but also to pay attention to adequate pain relief, to monitor the patient closely for any kind of discomfort or change in vital signs, and to check and manage a patient till consciousness is regained. Doing so is of utmost importance as it impacts the condition of the patient before the surgery, during the surgery, and post-surgery.
The duty of an anesthesiologist can never be undermined. As much as a doctor is essential to perform and complete a surgical procedure, it is also the responsibility of the anesthesiologist to make sure that the process transpires smoothly and successfully, with no complications. Being an indispensable part of various medical procedures, there will always be a major requirement for an anesthesiologist in the healthcare industry, and choosing a career as an anesthesiologist can, therefore, be a fruitful and lucrative one.
Requirements to Become an Anesthesiologist
As any other practitioner in the medical field, an anesthesiologist has to go through an extensive educational process, which includes:
- Completing a four-year undergraduate degree in any field, though a related science or medical science field is favorable.
- Clearing the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) and obtaining a medical graduate degree (M.D. i.e., medical doctor, or D.O. i.e., doctor of osteopathy) that takes another four years to complete.
- Complete a one-year internship or a 4-year residency program and take the American Board of Anesthesiology exam.
- Obtain the appropriate license like the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) or the American Osteopathic Board of Anesthesiology (AOBA) to be able to finally start practicing medicine.
- Experience: As an anesthesiologist, it is crucial to be attentive to details as much as possible. The work of an anesthesiologist leaves no room for being imprecise or nonchalant since their role involves the first step for any medical procedure or surgery to begin. The anesthesiologist must be careful of the amount of dosage they provide to the patient, or the consequences could be severe. However, the job of an anesthesiologist is not just to provide anesthesia. An anesthesiologist has to administer the method of providing anesthesia (depending on the condition of the patient), as well as the location of providing anesthesia.
Additionally, it is an anesthesiologist's responsibility to look after the patient after providing anesthesia, as a way to eliminate any disadvantages and maintain the well-being of the patient. It is a known fact that anesthesia can cause an allergic reaction to some people, leading to immense discomfort. Hence, the anesthesiologist must be extremely observant, by not overlooking even the tiniest bit of reactions. Years of training and practice provide the required experience for this profession.
- Skill: The reason that a medical degree is an important requirement for anesthesiologists is that handling and dispensing anesthesia is a whole medical procedure in itself. Just like the precision of a surgeon, an anesthesiologist providing the medication needs years of experience and skill to perform their best. The procedure of giving anesthesia to patients is not an easy one, contrary to popular belief. It requires precision and dexterity and great hand-eye coordination that would help the anesthesiologist perform their absolute best. Moreover, an anesthesiologist is required to have adequate skills in communication, technical operations, the ability to work under pressure, flexibility, and most importantly, patience and compassion towards patients. However, these skills are not developed overnight, aspiring anesthesiologists need years of experience to know the ins and outs of performing the procedure of providing anesthesia.
The job of an anesthesiologist is nerve-wracking and quite stressful. The condition of a patient may change at any moment or the situation may take a turn for the worse, but in the face of unpredictability, an anesthesiologist must stay calm and possess a presence of mind. To begin with, just like in any other profession, anesthesiologists must make a rough plan on how the procedure might go and be prepared to tackle all kinds of unpredictable and unwanted situations.
Furthermore, the anesthesiologist is required to monitor the patient's medical records and other health issues (if any), as that could eliminate any kind of complication for the patient, the anesthesiologist, as well as the surgeon. As mentioned above, some patients might have an allergic reaction to anesthesia. Hence, an aspiring anesthesiologist needs to know how to deal with such situations quickly and efficiently, without panicking or leaving room for a mistake to occur.
Many anesthesiologists choose to specialize in a particular category like pediatric, obstetric, or cardiac anesthesia by completing an additional year of fellowship which gives them the experience to practice medicine in that specific field.
Major Responsibilities of an Anesthesiologist
The duties of an anesthesiologist are commonly defined as dispensing anesthesia to the patient before the start of surgery, but there is so much more to this profession:
- An anesthesiologist makes sure what type of anesthesia to administer to a patient by taking into account the patient's health records, medical history, existing ailments, ongoing medications, most recent condition of the body, and allergies. This is done to avoid any form of complications subsequently.
- Prepping the patient before the surgery and making sure they are adequately medicated as per the procedure requirements.
- Administer the anesthesia medication and ensure that the patient is relieved of pain, which requires complete focus since some anesthesia like epidural has to be injected at a particular point.
- Keep check of the patient's vitals (blood pressure, pulse count, etc.) throughout the procedure and adjust the medication accordingly.
- Be ready to handle any emergencies that might arise during the course of the surgery.
- Make sure that the patient is comfortable during and after the surgery and check for any after-effects or side effects of the anesthesia to provide necessary medications.
- Keep an open line of communication with the surgeons, nurses, and assistants. They are also responsible for informing and explaining to the patient and their guardians about the procedures.
Anesthesiologists administer one of the four main types of anesthesia:
- Local anesthesia- It may be either a topical ointment or an injection used to numb a small area of the body. Used for small procedures to numb the particular area only for the duration of a small procedure.
- Monitored anesthesia care- This is administered usually via an IV. It can cause the patient to lose consciousness but can be awakened easily.
- Regional anesthesia- This is used for anesthetizing an entire body part. Performed by blocking the associated nerves to prevent them from sending signals to the brain.
- General anesthesia- It is most commonly associated with the layman use of the term anesthesia. Administered to the patients via IV or breathing tubes.
The work of an anesthesiologist will primarily depend on the setting that they are working in. Anesthesiologists are needed not only in a hospital but in all settings where surgeries take place. This includes medical offices, surgical centers, emergency rooms, ICUs, and Urgent care centers. Anesthesiologists work depending upon the surgical schedule on a particular day, but they are expected to be on-call to assist in emergencies.
An anesthesiologist may choose to specialize in a particular area by completing a year-long fellowship in that field. Some popular anesthesiologist specialties are:
- Cardiothoracic anesthesiologist: These anesthesiologists specialize in anesthesia administered during cardiac, lung or chest surgeries for patients of all ages. These surgeries can be highly invasive like heart bypass surgeries or minimally invasive like robotic surgeries.
- Critical care anesthesiologist: These anesthesiologists are responsible for administering anesthesia as a way to care for a patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). They work alongside the primary doctor(s) and surgeons of the patient to bring them relief and care as much as possible before the patient recovers completely.
- Neurosurgical anesthesiologist: The job of a Neurosurgical anesthesiologist entails taking maximum care of an individual with a disease in the brain or the spinal cord. A Neurosurgical anesthesiologist is responsible for the whole Central Nervous System and deciding what medication will be the best medication for the patient.
- Obstetric anesthesiologist: Obstetric anesthesiologist play a vital role in childbirth (labour and C-section), as well as in the process of Vitro fertilization. Any surgeries related to fertilization come under the care of an obstetric anesthesiologist who ensures that no harm or pain (in the case of Cesarean surgery) is being felt to the mother giving birth or the patient receiving surgery.
- Regional anesthesiologist: The job of a regional anesthesiologist is particularly tricky, as the anesthesia is provided to a certain region of the body while the patient is conscious; however, the surgery takes place in the anesthetized area all the same. The reason regional anesthesiologists have a tricky job is that they have to make sure the patient is conscious while the surgery takes place, but they do not feel pain in the area being treated.
- Pediatric anesthesiologist: The role of a Pediatric anesthesiologist is majorly to deal with the care of infants and children. They are responsible for giving care and proper medications to infants and children before surgery can take place. Additionally, they also provide care after the surgery is completed due to the fragile body of an infant or a child. Pediatric anesthesiologists will always work alongside pediatric surgeons.
- Hospice & palliative anesthesiologist: The job of a Hospice & Palliative anesthesiologist is to do with assisting departments of various medical care and helping them manage symptoms of serious illnesses, in a way to stop the illness from getting more severe. Hospice & Palliative anesthesiologists are the core of the discussion related to the dire condition of a patient with a serious illness. The main discussion revolves around how the pain and suffering of a patient can be reduced with the help of anesthesia.
Salary of an Anesthesiologist
Like any other medical professions, the income of an anesthesiologist depends upon a number of factors:
- Setting or location in which the anesthesiologist is working
- Specialty of the anesthesiologist
- Educational achievements
- Fellowship completion
- Yumber of years of experience
- Desired skills
Anesthesiologists easily earn a 6 figure income. According to the 2021 statistics, the average annual income of an anesthesiologist may vary from around $345,000 to $452,000, but based upon the factors above, an anesthesiologist can earn over $500,000 in a year.
Benefits of Being an Anesthesiologist
- Job Satisfaction: An anesthesiologist's job is more rewarding than popular belief, and not just from the salary perspective. An anesthesiologist's job is not only to provide the medical care that would ease the pain of the patient, but it also requires them to provide psychological ease to the patient and their family/guardians regarding the after-effects of the medication. Anesthesiologists are the very first crucial people who begin the surgery, and indirectly ensure that the surgery would go as smoothly as possible.
- Job & Financial security: The job of an anesthesiologist is not only rewarding but also ensures personal job security. It is quite simple - as long as surgeries are performed, an anesthesiologist is needed, hence it is a profession with a high demand for a workforce. But, it is not that anyone can qualify to become an anesthesiologist. Good educational qualifications from reputed universities and ample working experience in hospitals are very important for any aspiring anesthesiologist. As mentioned above, the salary of an anesthesiologist is quite high, and the reason is due to the high demand for anesthesiologists.
- Plenty Opportunities: An anesthesiologist has plenty of opportunities in their career if they consistently perform well in the hospitals they work at. The growth of an anesthesiologist is directly related to their performance and impacts their career and financial stability.