Anesthesiologist: Education and Career Information
An anesthesiologist has one of the most lucrative positions in the medical field. This position is highly specialized and requires attention to detail and a good grasp of medicine. Although it may seem very simple to do, the work of an anesthesiologist is very difficult – every recommended dosage must be precise, they must make sure they understand each case and do not administer the wrong medication, and they must monitor the patient to make sure their breathing remains steady throughout the surgery. The surgeon and medical staff depends on the anesthesiologist to make sure all the variables are in place, as it is important for the patient to remain in a comfortable state. This can be crucial to the survival of the patient and the success of the operation.
What does an Anesthesiologist do?
An anesthesiologist medicates patients through an I.V., spinal or local anesthetic prior to surgery. They determine the correct dosage to be administered while monitoring the patient throughout the pre- and post-op procedures. Their job is to make sure the patient’s breathing, blood pressure, vitals and heart rate remain stable. Anesthesiologists also determine what medicine would be best to alleviate pain for the patient after the procedure is completed, and prior to the patient being released. Anesthesiologists work all over the healthcare facility, from the cardiac wing to obstetrics and gynecology. There are distinct differences in how anesthesiologists administer medicine:
•Intravenous (I.V.) – Medicine is injected directly into the vein by an intravenous drip. This procedure is used to put patients to sleep during the surgical procedure. An intravenous drip is also used to administer other medicine and fluids into the body after surgery.
•Spinal – The medicine is injected directly into the spinal canal. This procedure may also be called an epidural, and numbs the area where the procedure will take place. The patient may or may not go to sleep.
•Local – The medicine is injected directly into the area, numbing it so the procedure can be completed. Local anesthesia allows the patient to remain awake and aware of what is occurring.
How much do Anesthesiologists earn?
The average salary of an anesthesiologist is about $300,000 per year, with a number of opportunities for bonuses. Years of experience adds thousands of dollars to this figure, including level of education and specialty. The higher salary usually applies to self-employed professionals, while anesthesiologists on staff at medical facilities usually make close to $200,000 annually.
What types of skills are needed to be successful in this field?
An anesthesiologist works under extreme pressure. These are must-have skills to succeed:
•Patience – This field requires patience and a good bedside manner. Patients are usually apprehensive prior to surgery or being injected with anything. Being able help put them in good spirits to alleviate any apprehension is an important skill that will go a long way.
•Attention to detail – This is one, if not the most important skill to have. In order to administer the right dosage of medicine, you will have to thoroughly know the patient’s history to get it right the first time. Surgery is not the place for mistakes.
•Critical Thinking and Problem Solving – Issues can arise at a moment’s notice. Being able to think a problem through and implement problem solving solutions can save a life.
•Mathematical computation skills – You need to know how to correctly compute the dosages based on the patient’s weight, height and a host of other factors. Thorough computation skills in anesthesiology are key.
•Time management – Anesthesiologists are very busy and always have patients to attend to. Knowing how to schedule your time during surgeries is important. Time management also comes in handy when administering medicine. Based on the dosages given, you will have to accurately estimate when you need to administer more, and also know when the patient should come out of their sedation.
•Research – Research is essential in this position. You need to know what types of medicines will work best for the patient, the patient’s history and other factors that all play a role in their dosage. For medical practitioners, research is ongoing. Anesthesiologists have to be well-informed on new innovations and methods, best practices and protocols on patient care.
•Good communication – This role requires a great deal of communication – with patients, families and the medical staff. You need to have a clear and concise grasp of the language and can effectively communicate with others in verbal and written form.
This is a medical position that will have a long residency and internship requirement attached to it, and this career is attained through attending medical school. In the second half of the medical school program, the clinical studies portion of the program begins, which offers first-hand insight into the workplace and its conditions. After completing medical school, a path in anesthesiology requires a year’s internship, followed by four years of residency to become licensed. Specialized anesthesiology components are taught during this time. Some areas of concentration are:
•Pre-operative evaluation of patients
•Chronic pain management
•Acute pain management
•Post-operative pain evaluation
•Post-operative pain control
•Pre-existing conditions and diseases of surgical care
All of these requirements must be completed according to protocols and expectations before being allowed to sit for the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) exam.
The road to becoming an anesthesiologist is rigorous. There is significant medical training involved, along with coursework that includes biochemistry, behavioral science, pharmacology, pathology, immunology, neuroscience and microbiology. Those courses are required prior to the clinical study program. Students in high school who are interested in the field of anesthesiology should take all of the science classes they can and volunteer at a medical facility to determine whether or not this is the right choice in careers.
Becoming an anesthesiologist begins with completion of a pre-med program, or completion of the courses that would be included in a pre-med curriculum. These courses include calculus, physics and biology. A bachelor’s degree program must be completed before entering medical school. Getting into medical school has its own set of challenges. The student must have their bachelor’s degree, usually in medicine (M.D.), or osteopathy (D.O.) and must sit for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) before being considered for medical school. Studying for the MCAT takes diligence and patience. This exam is rigorous and tests all the skills you have learned during your initial medical degree program.
While taking the MCAT exam and preparing for medical school, working in a healthcare facility on an internship under the direction of an anesthesiologist looks good on the medical school application and provides practical experience. Additional training may also be obtained during this time for specialization. This training is called a fellowship to acquire a sub-specialty.
There are many years of hard work and dedication attached to becoming an anesthesiologist, but it will be worth the time and effort in compensation and achievements. If you love science, this is a career you should definitely consider.