Information about Anesthesia as a Career
- Anesthesia is an important branch of medicine. Medicine remains an
honorable profession, primarily interested in the well being of patients.
Physicians still have a considerable degree of freedom and independence in
deciding the most appropriate course of treatment for a particular patient.
- Without anesthesia,
surgery would be excruciatingly painful, and in many
cases completely impossible. Surgery within the abdominal cavity, the chest,
and the skull would not be possible without anesthesia.
- The practice of anesthesia can include enormous variety, ranging from
newborn patients to the very old, from minor outpatient procedures to liver
transplants and cardiac surgery. It involves the whole perioperative
procedure, from deciding if a patient is fit and ready for
treating postoperative pain and determining fitness for discharge. It often
involves providing pain relief in labor, being involved in resuscitation,
and treating patients with chronic pain. Anesthesiologists work not only in
the Operating Room Suite, but also in the Delivery Room, the Emergency
Department, The Intensive Care Unit, and sometimes they provide sedation for
procedures in the XRay Department, the Endoscopy Suite, and elsewhere in the
- Anesthesia is an acute care specialty. Things change quickly, and
treatments work quickly and clearly. Anesthesiologists can change a hurting,
anxious, upset patient into a comfortable relaxed and cooperative patient in
only a few minutes. While a family doctor might take weeks to diagnose
chronic high blood pressure and months to establish a treatment regime,
anesthesiologists can often diagnose an acute rise in blood pressure within
a few heartbeats, and start treatment within minutes
- Anesthesiologists do not usually have an ongoing commitment to their
patients. This means that at the end of the day, if one is not on call, one
can leave the hospital with no responsibility for any patients until the
start of the next operating list.
- Anesthesia is a relatively mobile specialty. It is easier for an
anesthesiologist to move to a new city and establish a practice. Usually, if
one joins the group of anesthesiologists at a particular hospital or clinic,
one immediately has work. This is unlike other medical specialists who often
have to build up a roster of patients over months or years. Currently,
anesthesiologists are in demand in Canada, the USA and the UK.
- It is relatively easy to work part time or on a locum basis. Because
anesthesiologists do not usually have a long term relationship with patients
it is easier to get away for long vacations or for other reasons.
- Anesthesia is not as glamorous a specialty as, for example, cardiac
surgery, obstetrics or emergency room medicine. It's unlikely there will be
a hit TV series about an anesthesiologist.
- Because in some areas nurses, family doctors, and dentists are trained
to give anesthetics, some people consider anesthesia a less demanding
specialty than other fields of medicine. However, specialist
anesthesiologists often deal with more difficult or demanding cases which
would be beyond the capabilities of less trained people.
- Anesthesiologists often have less patient contact than many other types
of physician. If you wish to have an ongoing long term relationship with
your patients, other branches of medicine may be more suitable. However, in
Intensive Care Units and Pain Clinics anesthesiologists do follow patients
for weeks or months.
- In most countries, anesthesia is a medical specialty. Training as a
doctor is required before training in anesthesia. In Canada, it is possible
to train as a GP anesthesiologist in one year. In Canada and the United
States, it takes at least four years of specialist training, and in the
United Kingdom a few years longer.
- Anesthesia requires suitable physical and mental attributes.
- It is important to be skilled with ones hands, to be able to insert
lines and tubes into various sites in the body quickly, accurately, and with
the minimum of tissue damage.
- It is necessary to be able to cope with repetition and boredom, without
taking shortcuts or becoming distracted. Many operating lists consist of
performing similar procedures many times on basically healthy patients,
while being alert to circumstances which require a change of plan. Some
operations last for many hours. While modern anesthesia machines feature a
profusion of alarms if patient's vital signs depart from normal, it is still
essential for the anesthesiologist to be aware of what is happening in the
- If anesthesia sounds interesting, but the training is too demanding, you
might want to consider respiratory therapy. Respiratory therapists often
work with anesthesiologists in the Operating Room and in the Intensive Care
Unit. They are also involved in helping test patients breathing and with
technology related to assisting patients to breathe. In the United States,
one can also train as a nurse anesthetist.