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What does an anesthetist do?

Contents

Overview

Anesthetists are doctors and nurses that administer anesthetic drugs, to numb pain and remove sensation in the body. In the USA, anesthetists are nurses that administer anesthetics, whilst anesthetist doctors are called anesthesiologists. In this particular article we will use the English terminology, where an anesthetist can be a doctor or a nurse. The differences between nurse and doctor anesthetists is outlined in the article.

Within anesthesiology, there are a number of possible career paths and specialisations, from performing general anesthesia in surgeries to the treatment of long-term chronic pain. Both doctors and nurses can become anesthetists, and as with any specialisation, becoming an anaesthetist takes many years of training.

What does the job involve?

The most common role of an anesthetist is providing care to a patient before, during and, after surgery. Before surgery, the anesthetist will explain the anesthesia process to the patient and find out about their medical history. This allows them to determine how best to anesthetize the patient. The anesthetist is also involved in analysing the potential risk of the surgery.

During surgery, the anesthetist administers a general anaesthetic, causing the patient to lose consciousness so that they feel no pain. The anesthetist also monitors the patient’s vital signs, and administers more anesthetic if required.

Anesthetist

After surgery, the anesthetist will also be involved in the patient’s recovery, by administering pain relief.

Although anesthetists are primarily known for carrying out anesthesia on surgical patients, they can actually be involved in a wide range of practices. These include the following:

  • Chronic pain management
  • Acute pain relief
  • Administering pain relief to women in labour (epidural)
  • Sedation during procedures such as dental work
  • Emergency pain relief
  • Stabilising patients in intensive care

What are the different types of anesthetist?

Doctors qualified in anesthesia are known as anesthetist physicians. They undergo extensive training to reach this position, and are responsible for anesthetist care teams, as they supervise nurses and assistants.

Nurses are involved in care of patients and administration of anesthesia. Nurses generally work under the supervision of anesthetist physicians, but can also work under physicians of different specialities. Like doctors, they are involved in surgical anesthesia, chronic pain relief and pain relief during labour.

In countries such as the USA and UK, the position of anesthetist assistant is also available. Anesthetist assistants are involved in anesthesia administration, but are always supervised by anesthetist doctors and nurses.

In some countries, such as Germany, by law only anesthetist physicians can carry out anesthetic procedures and anesthetist nurses and assistants do not exist.

As anesthetists often have experience of working in a variety of specialities, they often gain management roles in hospitals, due to their varied knowledge and experience, which is broader than that of other types of specialist.

How to become an anesthetist

Anesthetist Physician

Training to become an anesthetist physician takes a number of years, following a medical undergraduate degree.

In America, you must complete the compulsory 4 years of medical school, followed by a further 4 years in an anesthesiology residency program. It is then possible to spend a year specializing in a specific area of anesthesiology, such as pain management or obstetric anesthesia.

In the UK, it is necessary to complete the normal 5 or 6 year medical degree, followed by 2 years of rotations in different practical areas. This is then followed by 7 years of specialized training in anesthetics, involving 2 years of core training and 5 years of higher training.

Hard work

Anesthetist Nurse

To become an anesthetist nurse, a standard nursing degree must first be achieved. This is then followed by year of postgraduate study tailored to anesthesia, which involves the study of topics such as pharmacology and intensive care support. Training involves hands on practical work in emergency units, maternal wards, and intensive care units. Nurses must then complete another 2 to 3 years of specialist training to become qualified in anesthesia.

Anesthetist Assistants

Anesthetist assistants require the least amount of training. They must first complete an undergraduate degree, followed by a special postgraduate training program that is usually 1 year in length.

Which school subjects are relevant to becoming an anesthetist?

As with any medical career, studying science subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics is incredibly beneficial for becoming an anesthetist. A grasp of technology can also be useful as anesthetists use a number of complex machines to monitor their patients.

It is also important to have a broad knowledge of medicine and anatomy as anesthetists deal with a wide variety of situations. Anatomy is particularly important to anesthetists, as they often administer local and regional anaesthesia, which numb very specific areas of the body.

Spinal cord (cauda equina in green)

How are anesthetists relevant to the field of medicine?

Anesthesia is incredibly important in the field of medicine because it deals with the alleviation of pain. Many surgical techniques and procedures used today would not be possible without the use of anesthesia. Therefore, anesthesiology is a speciality vital to field of medicine, as it reduces patient suffering, and allows for the development of crucial new practices.

Highlights

Anesthetists are doctors and nurses that administer anesthetic drugs, to numb pain and remove sensation in the body. In fact, there are three main types of anesthetists: physicians, nurses and assistants. 

The most common role of an anesthetist is providing care to a patient before, during and, after surgery. However, they can actually be involved in a wide range of practices, such as:

  • Chronic pain management
  • Acute pain relief
  • Administering pain relief to women in labour (epidural)
  • Sedation during procedures such as dental work
  • Emergency pain relief
  • Stabilising patients in intensive care
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Article, Review and Layout:

  • Rachel Baxter
  • Franchesca Druggan
  • Adrian Rad

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