What is an anesthesiologist?
This is a medical physician whose specialty is administering anesthesia. They usually work in an operating room keeping patients unconscious during surgery. An anesthesiologist is also responsible for monitoring the patient’s vital signs during this time. Although they usually work in the operating you can also see them in other environments. In addition to administering anesthesia in the operating room they can also administer epidurals, nerve blocks, and other types of pain management outside the operating room.
They are the professional whose job it is to keep the patient safe and comfortable during surgery or a procedure. Once you enter the operating room the anesthesiologist does not leave your side until you are stable and safe in the post-anesthesia room, also known as the recovery room. If the operation or procedure is neurosurgical the anesthesiologist will monitor your neurological signs. They will keep the patient asleep during the operation or procedure by administering several or a few anesthetic medications. Some of the medications are mixed with the oxygen the patient is breathing or intravenously. If there is a problem like inadequate blood flow to the heart, low blood pressure, blood loss, the anesthesiologist will work to correct the problem.
An anesthesiologist has several responsibilities like:
- Pain management
- Any situation in which a patient must be unconscious for a procedure
- Participating in life support
- Monitoring the patient’s vital signs like blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and breathing during a procedure.
- Using anesthetic agents to induce and maintain unconsciousness
- Managing patient’s airway and staging prompt intervention if necessary.
- Often treated as a patient’s advocate in the operating room
- Keeping the patient stable during a procedure
- Informing the surgeon if the patient develops problems which could influence the procedure.
- Before having the procedure the anesthesiologist will have to have an anesthesia plan to decide which plan will make the patient comfortable during the procedure.
- Postoperative pain management because it is not only critical for quality of life but also in healing because if the patient is not suffering from pain seem to heal more quickly.
- Managing pain during labor and delivery.
- Making sure that they are very careful with the medication they use because they administer paralytic agents. This prevents a patient from breathing on their own. If not administered correctly it can cause severe complications.
- Working with other surgeons to ensure that the patient is free of pain as the procedure is performed.
Being an anesthesiologist has a lot of responsibilities and no two days are the same. If you want a career where there is a lot of variety in their job this is a good choice. When an anesthesiologist works for a hospital they may work primarily with one surgeon or with different ones. Either you or employer will fill out your work schedule showing who you are working for and approximately how many hours the procedure to be completed. One important thing to know about the career of an anesthesiologist is that it is a fast paced job and you may be on your feet for many hours a day. During some procedures an anesthesiologist may sit behind their equipment for several hours watching their machinery that is hooked up to them.
Most anesthesiologists work in a hospital but some are employed by private physician’s offices, dental offices, pain management clinics, teaching, research, or outpatient care facilities. They can have set hours five days a week with weekends off, be on-call, or work a variety of shifts including weekends. If you work as an on-call anesthesiologist you would most likely be working for the emergency department and when one was needed they would call you in.
One anesthesiology field that is in high demand is in locum placement agencies. This is a job where you can practice medicine or anesthesiology in several states you may be required to have a license in several states, which is the only drawback to this particular job. As the population ages and grows along with expansions and advances in healthcare allow people to live a healthier, longer life the need for these professionals will increase.
Reasons to be an anesthesiologist
There are many different reasons as to why someone would want to choose the career of anesthesiology as everyone has their own reasons. Here are some of the top reasons to choose this career:
- It is one of the top paying jobs in the medical field
- Job security as they will always need anesthesiologists
- You will be a physician because you have to go through the medical education in order to specialize in anesthesiology.
- You like to help people
- You like a challenging career that offers a variety of tasks with no two days alike
- It is a fast paced job
- It is a respected medical profession
- You want a career that is hands-on
- You want to work a job that can have no set schedule
- You like the idea of working with different medical professionals every day.
Required skills to become an anesthesiologist
There are many different skills that you will need to become an anesthesiologist. Some of the many skills you will need include:
- Great people skills because it is the anesthesiologist’s responsibility to meet with the patient before the procedure to perform an interview and discuss the procedure with them.
- Organizational skills
- Keen eye for precision and detail
- Being able to manage under stress and remain calm
- Knowledgeable in their field because they will have to determine whether or not the patient will be safe in surgery.
- Being extremely good at math.
- Have good eyesight
- Good handwriting skills
- Patience and understanding
- Good bedside manner
- Be a good problem solver
- Having the ability to make quick and correct decisions during surgery
- Stamina because some operations can take hours to finish. If you work for a hospital you may have several operations in which you are the anesthesiologist for that particular day. Also some operations can have problems and take longer than expected.
- Strong communication skills
- Good managerial skills
- Problem solving skills
- Leadership skills
- Possess dexterity
- Must be meticulous in calculating medication doses
- Have the ability to closely watch several monitors in the operating room to make sure that the patients are comfortable and stable
- Physical strength to help lift and position patients on the operating tables.
How long does it take to become anesthesiologist?
It can take you as many as twelve years before you become an anesthesiologist. If you have to go part-time during your four year undergraduate program to get your Bachelor’s degree it will take you longer. It depends on many years it takes you to get through medical school and whether you are going to specialize in a particular field such as critical care anesthesiology, pediatric anesthesiology, pain management, or other fields. You can also choose to focus on research in anesthesiology. Becoming an anesthesiologist is a time-consuming career to pursue but it is one that has its own rewards in addition to a good salary.
How to become an anesthesiologist?
The career path to becoming an anesthesiologist should begin in high school. You should make sure that you are taking all the math and science classes you can, including biology and chemistry. During your senior year you should start applying to colleges. Make sure that you are maintaining good grades and when applying to college focus your studies on science and math. Once you graduate from high school you will need to go to college that offers a four year pre-med program to get your Bachelor’s degree. Try to major in sciences. There are some that also train as a registered nurse and receive a Bachelor of Science in nursing. During your junior year in college you will need to take the Medical College Admission test (MCAT). To increase your chances of getting accepted to medical school you should have good grades in college and score well on the test.
Because an anesthesiologist is considered a physician you will have to complete all the classes and clinical that a regular physician would have to that is not going to specialize in anesthesiology. Once accepted into medical school you will spend four years before you become licensed as a physician earning your Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). During your clinical rotations you will do four to twelve week rotations giving you an introduction to the different branches of medicine. At this time you are considered an intern and you will be working under the supervision of attending physicians or residents. You will spend the first two years in a classroom setting and in their second two years they would do clinical. In your last year of training you will make the decision as to whether you would like to specialize, which is when you would choose the career path of an anesthesiologist.
You will then need to apply to the anesthesiology training program, also referred to as a residency, and it is a program that takes a minimum of four years with one year of internship and three years of residency. During your internship you will either do a medical or surgical internship. During your residency during your second, third, and fourth years you will be taking multiple exams. They will include exams that encompass pathophysiology, physiology, pharmacology, and other medical sciences plus multiple anesthesia knowledge tests. These knowledge tests assess your progress during residency. After you pass your residency you will need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to obtain a medical license in the state where you are going to practice. If you choose to specialize in a particular field of anesthesiology like cardiac anesthesiology it will take an additional year. Once you have completed all your training you will have to take written and oral exams from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). After passing the exams you can say you are board certified. There are some subspecialties that may have an additional exam to take. In order to keep your board certification every 10 years you must complete a re-certification exam.
In the United States and Canada there are approximately 160 anesthesiology medical residency programs. One thing that you want to make sure of is that the school you choose to study anesthesiology is that is a certified school. You want it to be a nationally-ranked nursing or medical school as they can offer some of the best clinical training options. This includes up-to-date laboratories. You also want to look at the location of the college, the specializations they offer, and the requirements of the college. Make sure that the college you are considering attending has a strong curriculum in science and they offer the specialty that you want to specialize in. Make sure that they also offer internships because this will give you valuable experience working a real world setting. The internship is then followed by a residency where you will gain even more experience in the workplace.
Three of the top anesthesiology is:
- Duke University, Durham, NC—its school of anesthesiology has just celebrated its 45th year and tied for eighth place in 015 in the S. News & World Report rankings for medical research and in nurse anesthesia programs it ranked third. As a medical student during your second year you will complete an anesthesiology rotation and if you decide to specialize in anesthesiology you will do a longer rotation during your fourth year. Yearly, the anesthesiology department serves over 32,000 surgical cases.
- Washington University in St. Louis, MO—in 2016 they ranked sixth in the S. News & World Report for research medical schools. At this university you can train for an education, clinical, or research career in anesthesiology. You will have the option of a clinical rotation in your third or fourth year of medical school along with the opportunity for one-on-one patient care in a clinical setting. As part of the anesthesia care team you will participate in management of surgical patients. You will also have access to simulation suites in the Clinical Simulation Center and the opportunity to attend the anesthesiology clinical problem Grand Rounds lectures.
- University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia—in 2016 the S. News and World Report tied for fifth place for its nurse anesthesia program and best research medical school. At the Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care offers a diverse spectrum of training opportunities including a level one trauma center. You can take one or more rotations, externships, clerkships, or research projects in anesthesia with opportunities in pain management and surgical care.
Being an anesthesiologist is one of the highest paying jobs. Depending on their employer, their geographical location, and whether they have specialized an anesthesiologist with one to four years experience can earn $150,000 to $270,000, and if you have 20 or more years experience it could be as much as $325,000 a year. The state with the highest average starting salary was Mississippi and New York with a $135,000 followed by Massachusetts at $130,000. The lowest average starting salary was Hawaii at $80,000 followed by Nebraska and South Dakota at $90,000. Overall the bottom 10% in this field made annually $151,450 or less and the average mean salary for a year was $246,320 in 2014.
Anesthesiologist who worked for these employers averaged in 2014 an average salary of:
- Physician’s offices–$256,230
- General surgical and medical hospitals–$191.170
- Specialty hospitals–$190.570
- Outpatient care centers–$242,150
- Offices of other health practitioners–$215,930
In addition to the great salary there is also the benefit package. What it would entail would depend on your employer. Your benefit package could include:
- Paid vacation days
- Paid sick days
- Paid holidays
- Life and health insurance, that may cover your family and could include dental and vision
- 401 K
- Retirement and pension package
- Long and short term disability
- Malpractice insurance
- Uniform reimbursement
- Reimbursement for continuing education courses
- If on call monthly cell phone and/or pager or reimbursement on your own cell phone
- Shift differential if working second or third shift
- Overtime pay
- Profit sharing
- Yearly and/or quarterly bonuses
Anesthesiologist job outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the employment for anesthesiologists is set to increase between 2010 and 2020 by 25%. This is a career that is expected to grow faster than many other careers, both medical and non-medical. The job outlook is even better for anesthesiologists who are willing to work in rural communities and low-income areas. Although the job outlook is good there are some things that could cause a slight decrease in employment. One thing is changes in health care because for low-income patients out-of-pocket expenses could be too high and keep them from getting the services they need.
Similar or related jobs
- Nurse anesthetists—this is a registered nurse that works closely with the physician to administer and monitor the patient’s anesthesia during medical procedures. They may remain with the patient from pre-operative through surgery and into recovery.
- Anesthesia technician—they will usually assist the anesthesiologist with several jobs inside and outside the operating room like setting up equipment, ensuring careful patient care, and providing supplies. Their main job though is to prepare and maintain anesthesia equipment but your responsibilities can vary from state to state and employer to employer. To become an anesthesia technician you will need to have either a certificate or an Associate degree.
- Anesthesia assistants—they work under the direct supervision of the anesthesiologist assisting them while you prepare the patient for anesthesia. The actual responsibilities will vary according to the place of employment and the setting. They may calibrate and test the equipment that delivers and monitors the anesthesia, or even in charge of administering medications that are needed before inducing anesthesia.
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)—they provide therapeutic care during and after surgical care. They may also administer pain medicines when necessary. To become a CRNA you will have to complete an extensive Master’s degree program.
- Pain management specialist—this professional is one that works with patients to observe and alleviate their long-term chronic pain. They are the ones that prescribe and administer medication to help with their pain. They work in clinics and hospitals that focus on pain relief. Anesthesiologist s that specializes in this area has to take another sub-specialty in managing pain. Working in this field you may be subjected to licensing by regional authorities and have backgrounds check done because some of the medications that are prescribed are part of a controlled group of prescription medications in some areas. There are some anesthesiologists who work part time in pain management and part time as an anesthesiologist.
Conclusion about the career
It can be stressful if you stop to realize that a person’s life is in your hands when they are having a procedure and are put to sleep or put under anesthesia. It is a job with that offers you a great salary, benefits, and job security. On the other hand it involves a lot of schooling and during your clinical and rotations there may be nights or time periods that you will get very little or no sleep while in medical school. It may even continue on into your residency program. It is important that one becoming a medical doctor specializing in anesthesiology spend time in each department of a hospital, even if you are going to work for an outpatient clinic or for a private physician.
It is a career that between the years of 2010 and 2020 they expect the field of anesthesiology to increase by 25%. There are also a couple of downsides to working as an anesthesiologist and those are the many of years of schooling you have to attend before you can start to make a decent salary and the amount of student loans that you will have to pay back. Before you make your decision as to whether you want to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist look at all the pros and cons, do your research, and then decide. Make sure that you have the skills to become an anesthesiologist such as stamina and the ability to be on your feet many hours a day, that you have patience, understanding, and can relate to your patients, that you have the ability to help calm them down, especially if they are scared of being put under anesthesia. Do not let the lucrative salary sway you and then later when you are struggling to get through medical school you start to regret your decision. Be sure before you start to stack up student loans.