An anaesthetist — often known in the US as an anesthesiologist — is a medical doctor trained in the specialty of anesthesia, or the administration of drugs which temporarily block pain sensation by numbing a collection of nerves or inciting unconsciousness. The primary duties of an anaesthetist include deciding upon and administering anesthesia strategies, monitoring patients’ vital signs and organ function while they are anesthetized, and ensuring that patients successfully recover from anesthesia. Training for this position is very rigorous, and typically involves four years of medical school, a multi-year residency, and a certification exam.
In most cases, an anaesthetist works with patients who are undergoing invasive surgical procedures or delivering a baby. She reduces the pain and trauma of these events by administering drugs that block pain or temporarily suspend consciousness. Generally, she works in a hospital or surgical center. She may perform her duties alone or may be assisted by a nurse anesthetist.
The first part of the anaesthetist’s job is planning and administering an anesthesia strategy. She must consult with her patient’s physician team to determine the exact nature of the procedure that will be performed. In addition, she must confer with the patient to find out whether he has any allergies or other notable medical conditions. Once she has analyzed all of this information, she can decide which anesthetics are most appropriate for the situation.
Next, the anaesthetist administers the anesthesia. Depending on the nature and invasiveness of the procedure to be performed, the patient may require a regional anesthetic, which blocks pain in a portion of the body, or a general anesthetic, which temporarily incites unconsciousness. These drugs can be administered through an IV drip or a shot, or via a gas mask placed over the patient’s mouth and nose. In addition to administering these primary anesthetics, she may also deliver drugs which soothe the patient’s anxiety, speed the onset of unconsciousness, or reduce nausea.
Once anesthesia has been administered, the anaesthetist is responsible for monitoring the patient’s vital signs and organ function. She is present in the operating room for the duration of the patient’s procedure, observing vital functions such as heart rate and respiration. Should any of the patient’s vitals show signs of trauma or failure, she must immediately correct the situation, carrying out resuscitation measures if necessary. She may also need to deliver additional doses of anesthetic during long procedures.
Finally, the anaesthetist must ensure that her patient successfully recovers from anesthesia. She attends to the patient during post-operative care, making sure that he has regained consciousness or feeling. In addition, she continues to monitor his vital signs and may start him on an intravenous pain medication such as morphine.
Training to become an anaesthetist is quite rigorous. Candidates must normally complete four years of undergraduate study followed by four years of medical school. They must then undertake a residency which can last from two to seven years. During this residency period, they gain hands-on experience in their area of specialization by working at a hospital. After completing this residency, they must practice the specialty for two years and then pass an exam to become officially certified anaesthetists.