Last Updated: March 14, 2021
Anesthesiologist as a career
Who is an anesthesiologist?
An anesthesiologist is a physician (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in the field of 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 monitor the patient closely for any kind of discomfort or change in vital signs. Doing so is of utmost importance as it impacts the condition of the patient before the surgery, during the surgery, and after the surgery.
Education 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 field is beneficial
- clearing the MCAT and obtaining a medical graduate degree (M.D. or D.O.) that takes another 4 years to complete
- complete 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
Many anesthesiologists choose to specialize in a particular field like pediatric, obstetric by completing an additional year of fellowship which gives them the experience to practice medicine in a particular field.
Working as an Anesthesiologist
The duties of an anesthesiologist are commonly defined as administering anesthesia before the start of surgery, but there is so much more to this job.
- An anesthesiologist makes sure what type of anesthesia to administer to a patient based upon the patient's health and allergies.
- Prepping the patient before the surgery and making sure they are adequately medicated as per the procedure requirements.
- Administer the anesthesia medication which requires complete focus, since some anesthesia like epidural has to be injected at a particular point.
- Keep check of the patient's vitals throughout the procedure and adjust the medication accordingly.
- Be ready to handle any emergency situations that might arise during the course of the surgery.
- Make sure that the patient is comfortable during and after the surgery.
- Keep an open line of communication with the surgeons, nurses, and assistants.
Anesthesiologists administer one of the four main types of anesthesia:
- Local anesthesia 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 administered usually via an IV. It can cause the patient to lose consciousness but can be awakened easily.
- Regional anesthesia used to numb an entire body part. Performed by blocking the associated nerves to prevent them from sending signals to the brain.
- General anesthesia 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 greatly depend upon 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 emergency situations.
Salary of an Anesthesiologist
Like any other medical profession, the salary of an anesthesiologist increases with experience, but it also depends upon a number of factors:
- the setting in which the anesthesiologist is working
- the specialty of the anesthesiologist
- educational achievements
- fellowship completion
- number of years of experience
Anesthesiologists easily earn a 6 figure income. According to BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), in May 2020, the mean hourly salary of an anesthesiologist was $130, while the mean annual salary was $271,440, but based upon the factors above, an anesthesiologist can earn over $500,000 in a year.
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 a core in 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.
Qualities of a good Anesthesiologist
- Experience: As an anesthesiologist, it is crucial to be focused on the details as much as possible. The work of an anesthesiologist leaves no room for being unprecise or laid-back since they are the first step for any surgery to begin. It is important that the anesthesiologist is careful in 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. As most people may know, anesthesia can cause an allergic reaction to some people, leading to immense discomfort. Hence, it is important that the anesthesiologist is very detail-oriented, by not overlooking even the tiniest bit of reactions.
- Skill: The reason that a medical degree is an important requirement for anesthesiologists is due to the fact that handling and administering 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, along with great hand-eye coordination that would help the anesthesiologist perform their absolute best. However, these skills are not developed overnight, aspiring anesthesiologists need years of experience to know the in and out of performing the procedure of providing anesthesia.
- Role: Yes, the job of an anesthesiologist is nerve-wracking and quite stressful. The condition of a patient may change or the situation may take a turn for the worse, but in the face of unpredictability, it is extremely crucial that an anesthesiologist must stay calm. To begin with, just like in any other profession, it is important that anesthesiologists make a rough plan on how the procedure might go and be prepared to tackle all kinds of unpredictable and unwanted situations. Additionally, another trick to remain calm is by knowing the patient's medical history like the back of one's hand, which could eliminate any kind of surprises for the anesthesiologist as well as the surgeon. As mentioned above, some patients might have an allergic reaction to anesthesia, hence it is important for an aspiring anesthesiologist to know how to deal with such situations in a quick and efficient manner, without panicking or leaving room for a mistake to occur.
Benefits of being an Anesthesiologist
- Rewarding: 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 also impacts their career, as well as financial stability.