When choosing a medical specialty, aspiring physicians have many options available to them. One specialty is anesthesiology, which involves providing pain relief for patients undergoing surgical procedures. Identifying some reasons to become an anesthesiologist can help you determine whether you want to pursue this specialty when completing your education. In this article, we discuss the role of an anesthesiologist, including their job duties and skills, and explore eight reasons to become an anesthesiologist.
What is anesthesiology?
Anesthesiology is the branch of medicine that administers pharmaceutical pain relief during the perioperative period, or before, during and after surgical procedures. Physicians who administer pain medications to patients perioperatively are called anesthesiologists, or anesthetists. To work in anesthesiology, an individual must complete medical school and between eight and 12 years of additional training. They study pharmacokinetics, neuroanatomy, pharmacodynamics and mechanical ventilation, all of which are crucial in the field. Anesthesiologists rely on their knowledge of medication and its effects on the human body as they provide pain relief and put patients to sleep during surgical procedures.
What do anesthesiologists do?
An anesthesiologist is responsible for administering anesthesia medications, also called anesthetics, and managing pain in patients. They can administer medications in various methods:
Local anesthesia: This type numbs a portion of the body but allows the patient to remain conscious.
Regional anesthesia: This medication blocks pain receptors in a larger part of the body but allows the patient to remain conscious.
Sedation: This method relaxes the patient but allows them to remain conscious. Some patients fall asleep during sedation but they can easily be awakened.
General anesthesia: This type renders the patient unconscious and therefore unable to feel pain or other stimuli.
Depending on the anesthesia method, the administration of the medication varies. Patients can inhale anesthetics, have them injected into their veins or beneath their skin or have them applied topically to the skin or eyes via a patch, spray or liquid.
Additional duties of an anesthesiologist include:
Evaluating patients before undergoing medical procedures
Monitoring patients during and after medical procedures
Ensuring patient health and safety
Leading the anesthesia care team in the operating room
8 reasons to become an anesthesiologist
Although medical students can choose from many specialties, anesthesiology offers appealing benefits:
1. Good work-life balance
For many physicians, attaining a good work-life balance can be a struggle. Certain specialties require long hours, and physicians are required to attend to emergencies outside of standard clinic hours. Anesthesiologists self-report that they have the best balance between their jobs and their personal lives out of all medical specialties, perhaps due to the required scheduling of most surgeries. Although the specialty can require long days, anesthesiologists may be able to achieve a better work-life balance than other physicians.
2. Variety of work
Anesthesiologists have a diversity of patient duties during their workdays. Their daily list of patients may span a range of ages and medical conditions, thus requiring a variety of treatments. In one day, they may administer anesthesia to a mother in labor, a child undergoing a routine operation, an elderly patient and a person undergoing cancer treatment. They also work in operating rooms alongside surgeons who perform various procedures.
3. Exhilarating situations
Although one of an anesthesiologist’s main duties is to put patients to sleep, their job is to remain alert and aware of each patient throughout the procedure. They provide acute care and are in control of the operating room. When a patient’s needs change suddenly, they must apply their problem-solving skills to determine the cause of the shift. They must also determine how to stabilize that individual before the surgeon or anyone else in the room can continue with the medical procedure.
4. Opportunities to help others
Anesthesiologists provide an important first step of community care because most people wouldn’t think about agreeing to a surgery, even a necessary one, without some sort of anesthesia. They share their knowledge and talk through the pain relief options that are available so that a patient and their family can feel comfortable with all steps of the procedure. Anesthesiologists then administer the correct medications that help them feel no pain during a surgery or procedure. They monitor the condition of patients after their procedures to manage postoperative pain and keep them comfortable in recovery.
5. High income
Of all specialties, anesthesiology is one of the highest-paid options for those pursuing medical careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average national salary for an anesthesiologist is $271,440 per year. The potential for a higher salary often depends on experience level and the state in which the physician works.
6. Long career
Anesthesiologists can often practice their specialty throughout their lives and enjoy long careers. Some decide to even work into their 70s. As long as an anesthesiologist has the mental and physical abilities to handle urgent situations and monitor patients carefully, they can continue to work safely.
7. Interactions with people
Some people mistakenly believe that anesthesiologists only work with unconscious patients. However, those in this field interact with a range of people before and after they administer pain medications and sedatives. They consult with patients preoperatively to discuss their medical conditions and concerns. Anesthesiologists also provide postoperative care in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) of the hospital.
8. Advanced technology
Anesthesiology is a medical specialty that involves the use of advanced technology, including computerized devices and software that monitor patients during surgical procedures. The workstation of an anesthesiologist resembles that of a commercial airplane cockpit that monitors various aspects of a patient’s health and vital signs. If you’re interested in biotechnology, anesthesiology may be an appealing career path for you.
Important anesthesiologist skills
Anesthesiologists need certain skills when working with patients, such as:
Critical thinking: An anesthesiologist reacts quickly when a situation shifts, thinking critically about how to best respond to their patient’s needs.
Attention to detail: Details are essential in all stages of the anesthesiologist’s work. It’s very important that they pay close attention to a patient’s details as they collect their history, check for interactions, administer medications, supervise the surgery and monitor recovery.
Interpersonal skills: Anesthesiologists interact with patients and their loved ones, so the ability to provide care compassionately is important.
Monitoring: The ability to stay alert and monitor a patient during and after surgery is an important skill. They must be alert for changes in vital signs and quickly decide how to improve their health and well-being.
Written and oral communication: An anesthesiologist maintains detailed patient records and speaks to patients and their friends and family, so they need excellent written and oral communication skills.
I hope you find this article helpful.