An anesthesiologist is like the guardian of sleep during medical procedures. They’re the experts who make sure you’re safe and pain-free when you need surgery or other medical treatments. Their job is to carefully administer anesthesia, which is a special medicine that makes you sleep or numbs the area that needs attention.
Anesthesiologists monitor your vital signs, like your heart rate and breathing, throughout the procedure to keep you in good shape. They’re highly trained to handle any unexpected situations that might arise during surgery. It’s a crucial role in the operating room, ensuring patients stay comfortable and wake up feeling well after the procedure is done.
If you’re thinking about a career in medicine that combines expertise, precision, and care, becoming an anesthesiologist might be your calling.
How to Become an Anesthesiologist
Becoming an anesthesiologist is a rewarding journey that requires dedication, years of education and training, and a commitment to patient care. As a vital part of the surgical team, anesthesiologists play a crucial role in ensuring patients’ comfort and safety during medical procedures. If you’re passionate about medicine, thrive under pressure, and are dedicated to improving patients’ lives, a career as an anesthesiologist might be your ideal path to making a significant impact in the world of healthcare. The steps that follow outline how to become an anesthesiologist.
Step 1: Lay the Educational Foundation
The journey begins with a strong educational base. Start by completing a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field. While there’s no specific major requirement, courses in biology, chemistry, or pre-medical studies can be especially helpful. Maintain a high GPA and engage in extracurricular activities that showcase your dedication to the medical field.
Step 2: Ace the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
To gain admission to medical school, you’ll need to excel on the MCAT. This standardized test evaluates your problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles. A competitive MCAT score is essential to secure a spot in medical school.
Step 3: Complete Medical School
Medical school is where you’ll lay the foundation for your medical career. It typically takes four years to earn your Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. During these years, you’ll study anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and clinical skills. You’ll also complete clinical rotations, gaining hands-on experience in various medical specialties.
Step 4: Residency in Anesthesiology
After medical school, you’ll embark on a four-year anesthesiology residency program. This is where you’ll delve deep into the world of anesthesiology, learning how to administer anesthesia, manage pain, and handle emergencies in the operating room. You’ll work under the supervision of experienced anesthesiologists, gaining invaluable clinical experience.
Step 5: Obtain Licensure
To practice medicine, you must obtain a medical license. This involves passing a licensing exam specific to your state or region. Additionally, you may need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) to demonstrate your medical knowledge.
Step 6: Consider Fellowship (Optional)
While not required, some anesthesiologists choose to pursue fellowship training to specialize in areas like pain management or pediatric anesthesiology. Fellowships typically last one to two years and provide advanced training in a specific field within anesthesiology.
Step 7: Maintain Certification and Continuing Education
Anesthesiologists must stay up-to-date with the latest medical advancements and techniques. To maintain certification, you’ll need to complete continuing medical education (CME) requirements. This ensures that you provide the highest level of care to your patients.
Step 8: Begin Your Anesthesiology Career
With your education, training, and licensure in hand, you’re ready to start your career as an anesthesiologist. You can work in various settings, including hospitals, surgical centers, or even as part of a private practice. Your role will involve assessing patients, administering anesthesia, monitoring vital signs during surgery, and managing post-operative pain.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (link opens in a new tab) also contains additional information about the education required of anesthesiologists as well.
Benefits of being an Anesthesiologist
Being an anesthesiologist comes with a host of rewarding benefits. First and foremost, you’re entrusted with the crucial task of ensuring patients experience no pain during surgery, making a significant difference in their lives. This role offers job security, as the demand for anesthesiologists remains high. Alongside financial rewards, anesthesiologists enjoy a competitive salary and opportunities for career growth, including specialization in areas like pain management.
This profession encourages continuous learning and innovation, keeping you at the forefront of medical advancements. Moreover, you have the privilege of being part of a healthcare team that relies on your expertise, making you a valued member of the medical community. If you’re drawn to a profession that combines expertise, compassion, and a commitment to patient care, anesthesiology could be your ideal career path.
Job Description of an Anesthesiologist
A day in the life of an anesthesiologist is a dynamic blend of precision, responsibility, and compassion. These medical professionals start their day by reviewing patient records, medical histories, and surgical plans. In the operating room, they meticulously administer anesthesia to induce a controlled state of unconsciousness or numbness, ensuring patients experience no pain during surgery. Throughout the procedure, anesthesiologists closely monitor vital signs, adjusting anesthesia levels as needed.
Anesthesiologists are the guardians of patient safety, ready to respond to any unexpected developments. After surgery, anesthesiologists continue to manage pain and ensure patients wake up comfortably. Beyond the OR, they consult with colleagues, attend medical meetings, and stay updated on the latest advancements in their field. It’s a demanding but rewarding role that combines technical expertise with a deep commitment to patient well-being.
According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, anesthesiologists are, “primarily responsible for the safety and well-being of patients before, during, and after surgery. This may include placing them in the state of controlled unconsciousness called “general anesthesia,” the provision of “regional anesthetics” where only a portion of the body is made numb, or administering sedation when indicated for the relief of pain or anxiety.” For a more detailed list of tasks an anesthesiologist performs, check out the job description that follows.
Anesthesiologist Job Posting
Let’s look at a job description posted by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:
The Physician will perform as a staff anesthesiologist in the Anesthesiology Service with specific duties to provide care to those in the operating room, critical care units, and pain clinic. This position is necessary to provide specialized clinical Anesthesiology services for surgical patients and those undergoing other painful non-operative procedures. Other clinical skills may include diagnostic trans-esophageal echocardiography, critical care medicine, and pain management. The incumbent will be responsible for the following duties:
- Providing anesthesia patient care in other areas such as the general operating room, including supervision of residents and CRNAs.
- Providing anesthesia patient care in other areas such as the post anesthesia care unit and clinics where patients undergo off-site anesthesia for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
- He/she must meet anesthesia-related documentation requirements set forth by Joint Commission and participate in development and implementation of program planning, objectives, and standards essential to delivery of quality anesthetic care in the areas noted above.
- Providing on-call coverage of the ICU and operating rooms as indicated by specific training is subspecialty area.
- Assignment will include night/weekend on-call coverage responsibilities.
- Other clinical skills may include diagnostic trans-esophageal echocardiography, critical care medicine, perioperative medicine and pain management. Duties may also include basic clinical, and translational research in areas pertaining to the care of veteran patients, including, but not limited to acute and chronic pain management, critical illness, surgical anesthesia, and related disciplines.
This position was posted to run 03/14/2019 until 08/31/2019 with a salary range of $103,395 to $400,000 per year on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Free Teacher and Student Resources
- PBS along with Nova host a wide range of topics on the Body and Brain (link opens in a new tab) via articles, videos, and even interactive experiences like their Operation: Heart Transplant interactive (link opens in a new tab).
- The Association of American Medical Colleges also has a collection of medical student video interviews (link opens in a new window) on their website. These are embedded videos from YouTube, so if YouTube is blocked at your school, you could share the link with students to access outside of school hours.
- To learn more about getting into medical school, the Association of American Medical Colleges has a free Getting into Medical Guide (link opens in a new window) for pre-med students.
Free Human Anatomy Online Course
The The Hong Kong Polytechnic University offers a free Human Anatomy course on EdX.org (link opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course. By taking this course, you’ll learn:
- Effects of stroke on the human body.
- Anatomy of relevant body systems at gross and histological levels.
- Services provided by healthcare professionals for stroke patients.
- Relevant knowledge of anatomy for application of clinical procedures.
Anesthesiologist Career Video Transcript
For centuries, surgery was often an agonizing experience. Through advances in medicine, anesthesiologists are able to make operations virtually pain-free. Except in emergencies, the anesthesiologist usually meets with the patient prior to the surgery. The doctor will ask about the patient’s medical history, and explain the type of anesthesia that will be used, as well as possible side effects. Before the operation begins, the doctor administers the anesthesia and checks to see that it’s taking effect.
An anesthesiologist monitors the patient’s vital signs: heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and breathing. The amount of anesthesia may need to be continually adjusted to ensure the patient is properly sedated. It’s a mentally-demanding, high pressure job. The patient’s life is in this doctor’s hands. Most work is in operating rooms at hospitals or surgical outpatient centers. They may also handle pain management in intensive care units and during labor and delivery. Hours can be long and irregular.
Even after the surgery is completed, anesthesiologists continue to watch over patients, ensuring they come out of the anesthesia successfully. Anesthesiologists complete 4 years of residency training after medical school. After residency, they may pursue additional years of fellowship training in subspecialties such as cardiothoracic anesthesia and critical care. Millions of operations are performed each year. Many of them just wouldn’t be possible without the knowledge and expertise of anesthesiologists.
- National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1061.00. O*NET OnLine.
- The video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.