Administering anesthesia and monitoring vital signs before, during, and after any medical procedure is very important because it helps to save lives. However, the administration of anesthesia may induce a range of conditions in patients such as headache, nausea, etc.
This is why specialists enquire about the medical history and allergies of a patient before any anesthesia. The specialist responsible for discharging these duties is the anesthesiologist or anesthetist.
An anesthetist administers anesthesia to patients in order to prevent them from feeling pain during surgery or diagnostic procedures. How does this happen? If a specialist administers anesthesia to a patient, it blocks the pain signals that pass along the patient’s nerves to the brain.
Most anesthesia makes a patient unconscious while others do not. An anesthetist can give anesthesia in various ways and in different parts of the body.
Anesthesiology is the best example of safety in medicine because it has made most surgical procedures today to be possible. Statistics, however, show that about 5.2 deaths per million occur worldwide as a result of improper anesthesia. Another report also shows that approximately 88,000 deaths occur yearly in the U.S. due to improper anesthesia.
For these reasons, a hospital can only be regarded as “safe” if its anesthesiology practice is top-notch. Today, anesthesiologists now administer modern anesthesia and it is tailored to the needs of patients and the type of surgery they are undergoing.
In this article, you will get to know the duties of anesthesiologists, the requirements to complete so as to become an anesthesiologist, and the salary you will make.
Who is an anesthesiologist?
Anesthesiologists are physicians who are responsible for taking care of surgical patients and pain relief before, during, and after surgery. They are trained on how to properly administer drugs (anesthetics) to patients in order to reduce or eliminate pain during surgery or other medical procedures.
The anesthetics that the anesthetist administers do not prevent pain but also cause relaxation thereby controlling a patient’s breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Anesthesiologists ensure the safety of patients by monitoring the use and effects of the anesthetics to be administered and enquiring about the patient’s medical history. Whenever a patient develops any problem during or after surgery, the anesthesiologist is the first specialist to identify and treat the problem.
Anesthetists work closely in a team with other medical professionals such as doctors, surgeons, surgical technologists, and nurses. They are also trained not only in anesthesia but in pharmacology and physiology.
What does an anesthetist do?
Anesthesiologists work closely with patients to monitor them before, during, and after surgery. They do all these to ensure that they do not develop complications from surgery or other medical procedures. Below is the job description of an anesthesiologist:
Before any surgery or medical procedure, anesthetists work closely with patients to make sure that they can undergo the procedure and handle anesthesia. How do they do this? Anesthetists review the medical history of patients and answer any questions they may have about how the anesthesia relates to their medical procedure.
Afterward, they administer the anesthesia before the patient undergoes the surgery and start monitoring vital signs.
The moment a patient enters the theatre, an anesthetist monitors the patient throughout the process to manage pain and monitor vital signs. Whenever a problem arises during the surgery, the anesthesiologist manages the problem.
If a patient has any chronic medical conditions like asthma, the anesthetist also manages the problem throughout the surgery.
Upon completion of the surgery, the anesthetist monitors the recovery of the patient to manage any problem that may arise. Anesthesiologists monitor how patients recover from the effects of anesthesia and give the medical team a nod when patients can be taken away from the theatre. In some cases, they develop a plan to manage a patient’s pain after being discharged from the hospital.
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How To Become An Anesthesiologist
All anesthesiologists possess either a Doctor Osteopathic Medicine (DO) Degree or a Doctor of Medicine (MD). Below are the steps to pursuing a career in anesthesiology:
1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree
The first step towards becoming an anesthesiologist is by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology, natural sciences, or related fields. While studying to earn your bachelor’s degree, ensure to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5. The reason is that medical schools accept candidates whose cumulative GPAs range between 3.5 to 4.0.
During the undergraduate program, you will take prerequisite courses relating to medical schools and they include biology, chemistry, physics, and math.
2. Pass MCAT and apply to medical school
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice exam offered by medical schools to assess the knowledge of science concepts, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills of applicants.
Most students start studying very hard for the MCAT even before completing their bachelor’s degree program. The MCAT is designed for students who wish to pursue a degree in a medical school. To pass the MCAT, candidates must have higher scores in all areas of the exam.
After passing the MCAT, the next step would be to apply to a medical school. Application to medical schools is highly competitive as it involves cumulative GPA, letters of recommendation, and MCAT scores of applicants.
3. Complete a medical school
Once you get in, complete a medical degree program. Students who aspire to become anesthesiologists complete a Doctor Osteopathic Medicine (DO) Degree or a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program. It takes four (4) years to complete the program.
In the first two years, you will spend time in the classroom, taking courses including microbiology, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, medical ethics, and anatomy. The last two years of medical school let you gain hands-on experience caring for patients in health care settings including hospitals and clinics.
Professional anesthesiologists supervise the clinical rotations and give students the opportunities to specialties including pediatrics, gynecology, cardiology, and geriatrics.
4. Take and pass the USMLE
The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-step exam designed for students of allopathic medicine who are on the path to a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. It measures an applicant’s ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and patient-centered skills that form the basis for safe and effective care.
Most medical students start studying for the USMLE while in medical school. Students may choose to take the first two parts of the USMLE while in medical school but will have to take the third part of the exam after graduating from medical school.
All states require that medical students pass the USMLE in order to gain licensure for practice as anesthesiologists.
5. Complete a residency program in Anesthesiology
After graduating from medical school, physicians undergo four (4) years of specialized training (residency program). The residency program is similar to an internship program in other career fields.
During the first year of the residency program, physicians undergo a variety of clinical rotations in a hospital. The last three years of the program focuses mainly on rigorous anesthesia training.
While completing the residency program, physicians can choose a number of subspecialties including general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, and local anesthesia.
6. Gain licensure
Upon completion of the residency program, physicians can apply for licensure in the state where they will practice. Why should anesthesiologists in the U.S. apply to their state for licensure? The reason is that all medical licenses are offered through each state’s medical board to physicians that meet the necessary requirements set by the individual states.
On the other hand, anesthetists may choose to obtain board certification after completing the residency program. While this is optional, it helps to increase an anesthetist’s chances of landing a job. To obtain board certification, physicians must take and pass the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) exam offered through both the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) and the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA).
What is the salary and job outlook of anesthesiologists?
According to PayScale, Payscale reports that the average salary of an anesthetist with one year of experience (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) is $268,850 per year. Anesthesiologists that have between 1-4 years of experience make an average salary of $297,181 per year. Mid-career anesthetists with 5-9 years of experience make an average salary of $302,938 per year.
The agency also reports that the average salary of anesthesiologists with 10-19 years of work experience is $335,860 per year. An anesthetist with over 20 years of experience is $351,007 per year.
The employment of anesthesiologists is increasing faster than the employment of other occupations in the U.S. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of anesthesiologists is projected to grow by 10% to 20% over the next decade.
Safety in medicine would be very low without the services of anesthesiologists. However, the administration of anesthesia can cause many changes to the physiology of a patient. These changes include the fluctuation in the vital parameters of a patient.
Additionally, anesthesia can induce a range of conditions in patients including unconsciousness, hypothermia, shivering, headache, nausea, sore throat, etc. Therefore, anesthetists monitor patients before, during, and after surgery or other medical procedures to manage any vital signs that may arise.
The above is why anesthesiologists are indispensable in medical practice. It is also the more reason why they are regarded as the guardian angels in the operating room due to their life-saving skills.
Anesthesiology can be a stressful career but professionals in the field overcome the stress by having a work-life balance and by pursuing creative interests that are rejuvenating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is anesthesiology a stressful job?
Yes. One of the most stressful disciplines in the field of medicine is anesthesiology. Physicians in this career face difficult responsibilities on a daily basis in trying to manage life-threatening situations.
What are the types of anesthesia?
The three types of anesthesia are general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, and local anesthesia.
How long does it take to become an anesthesiologist?
Generally, it takes between 12 – 14 years to become a licensed anesthesiologist. The journey comprises 4 years of undergraduate study, 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency, and 1 year of fellowship program or 2 years of private practice.
What skills are necessary for anesthesiology?
The relevant skills that employers seek in anesthesiologists include communication, decision-making, compassion, multitasking, detail-orientation, dexterity, physical stamina, and technical skills.