Are you interested in a career in the medical field and you’ve been thinking about the specialty of anesthesiology, it’s an excellent choice that offers many benefits and a good starting salary. As with any profession, there are advantages and it has its share of downsides. Here is everything that you need to know about how to become an anesthesiologist, what duties this job entails, the salary and the outlook for job availability in the future.
Anesthesiologists are actually physicians who possess an M.D. degree. The educational requirements are fairly stringent in order to become eligible to become licensed and certified to practice as an anesthesiologist. If this is a career that you plan to pursue, a bachelor’s degree in health sciences or pre-med is necessary prior to being considered for acceptance into a medical school for anesthesiologists. Prior to legal practice as an anesthesiologist, you will have your MD degree, or your D.O degree, license for the state that you’re working in and board certification at a minimum.
Preparation for medical school
It’s wise to begin preparation for medical school before you even enroll n college courses. It’s important to be aware of the fact that acceptance into medical schools is highly competitive, so it’s vital to maintain a high GPA of at least 3.5 and the closer to 4.0 you are, the better your chances of being accepted into a medical school program. You do not necessarily have to earn a bachelor’s degree in any certain discipline, but you will need to have many of the core courses which include mathematics, physics, chemistry and English and a background in biology and the natural sciences to build strength in these areas. Your journey to become an anesthesiologist will require a time commitment of 4 years to complete a bachelor’s degree, and an additional 3 to seven year for the completion of the residency programs and internships, depending upon your specialization.
You will need to prepare for your Medical College Admissions test, also known as the MCAT prior to applying for medical school. You will also be required to submit your transcripts along with official proof of your MCAT scores and letters of recommendation for the admissions committee to review. Some things to be aware of when preparing in advance for medical school is to network and perhaps even volunteer while working on your bachelor’s degree because the committee is interested in knowing more about your personality, the kinds of extracurricular activities you’ve participated in, and your leadership qualities. These are all things that the admissions committee takes under consideration and it’s important that you known that going in to the program so you can adequately prepare in advance.
How long does it take to become a full-fledged anesthesiologist?
The average amount of time for completion of all of the requirements can be as much as 12 years, and in some instances up to 14. Four years of university level coursework is necessary to obtain a bachelor’s degree with an additional four years of medical school. After completion of the medical school an average of four years of residency training are necessary along with one or two years of post-residency fellowship completion. The amount of time spent in residency, internship and fellowship engagement depends upon the specialization(s) chosen and the requirements within these disciplines for board certification in the specialties. This is something to consider if you want to go all the way with the certifications and specializations required. There are really no shortcuts that you can take to get there, but the rewards can be immense.
What is an anesthesiologist and what do they do?
An anesthesiologist is a medial doctor who is trained in a specialization that makes them experts in ensuring patient well-being prior to, during and post surgery. They administer anesthetics to the patient to help the patient relax, as well as to block pain. It is the responsibility of the anesthesiologist to monitor the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and breathing and to take the necessary measures to control each of these functions ad to apply the necessary medications. There is a lot of work to be done on behalf of each patient that the anesthesiologist works with. This type of physician first becomes familiar with the medical history of the patient along with current health and if there is time in non emergent situations, he or she consults with the patient to make an introduction and explain their role in the procedures that are going to take place. The anesthesiologist may ask some questions of the patient and also offer an opportunity to ask questions and answer them to the best of their ability. If an emergent situation arises during surgery, it is the anesthesiologist who is usually the first to identify it and may also be the physician who treats the issue. It is the anesthesiologist who determines when a patient is ready to leave the recovery room after a procedure to be transferred to a regular hospital bed and in many cases, provides pain management after surgical procedures.
Specializations in anesthesiology
There are seven sub-specialties within the anethesiology department. These are cardiothoracic anesthesia, critical care anesthesia, neurosurgical anesthesia, obstetric anesthesia, orthopedic anesthesia, pain medicine and pediatric anesthesia. Cardiothoracic anesthesiologist provide care to patients generally in a cardiac catheterization laboratory and in other settings where diagnostic and other types of surgical procedures dealing with the heart and circulatory system take place, and the work setting may either be in a hospital or a clinic. The critical care specialization occurs in a hospital or trauma center setting and generally deals with emergency situations that arise. The remainder of these sub-specialties may take place within a hospital or clinic setting. When you select the type of sub-specialty in which you want to become board certified, your residency will fall within the parameters to help you to get the specialized training and experience that you need in that specific field of study. You will have hands on experience working with patients to gain proficiency and competence.
Is anesthesiology the best choice for you?
It is highly recommended that prior to starting the journey to become an anesthesiologist that you first perform a self assessment to determine if this career choice is right for you. The first consideration to make is if you’re willing to make the time and financial commitment to see the educational and training aspects through to the finish. The costs can be high and it does require more than a decade to reach this goal. The next consideration to make is your skill set. Anesthesiologists must have excellent communication skills both verbally and in writing. Patient information must be recorded accurately. Good listening skills are also required so you can understand patient concerns and give them answers to any questions that they may have about their procedure and the treatments they will receive as well as pain management options for post surgery. You must be able to articulate the facts to a patient who may be in pain or frightened so a good bedside manner with empathy is almost requisite. In addition to this, it takes a great deal of stamina to make it through the years of education and training.
What is the salary for an anesthesiologist?
The salary of an anesthesiologist is in the triple digits, but it varies depending upon the state that you work in, the specialization that you choose and the hospital or clinic in which you are employed. On average, the salary for an anesthesiologist in the United States ranges between $329,000 to $430,000 per year as of the latest figures provided for 2019. Anesthesiologists who earn salaries on the higher end of the spectrum generally have additional skills, certifications, more education and have been working in the profession for several years. Anesthesiologists usually report to a director, as do other physicians within a medical practice, hospital or trauma center. This is one of the highest paying jobs in the medical profession. There is a great deal of responsibility that goes with the job of an anesthesiologist but the emotional rewards and well as the financial compensation and bonus packages included can also be extremely satisfying.
Licensed anesthesiologists are required to maintain a valid license without restrictions in order to practice medicine in the US or Canada. It is important to apply for your re-certification approximately one year prior to the expiration date of current certification as there is absolutely no grace period allowed for certification. Those who meet the eligibility requirements must be certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists. Other requirements include 50 hours of category 1 CME each year and a minimum of half of these hours must be in Anesthesiology. Within an 8 year period, you must have a total of 400 hours with 200 in anesthesiology. In addition, you will be required to complete a self assessment questionnaire for every year of the eight year cycle, a letter from the program director along with transcripts as proof of credits earned which must also be approved by the AAPS.
Other factors to consider
Although some anesthesiologist jobs can be predictable and you can count on established work schedules, this isn’t the case for everyone in the profession. It is often referred to as a “lifestyle” profession which some who have been working under certain circumstances find humorous. There is definitely a downside to the job at least for some who work in an “on call” basis at hospitals or with rotational shifts. Those who work in an outpatient center can look forward to a more stable schedule but others may find themselves with a more hectic and less predictable schedule and work environment. A few situations that can happen include cases which are inappropriately scheduled and patients who are at an extremely high risk to undergo the type of surgery scheduled at an outpatient facility and this is something that an anesthesiologist must deal with on a case by case basis. Under these conditions, the stress is real and constant because you may not know what to expect during your work day.
If you decide to cancel the surgery, it can cause hard feelings in the workplace because it results in a lot of lost revenue for everyone involved, particularly you, the surgeon and the clinic. The kind of person that is the happiest in this profession is an individual that is flexible and goes into a specialization that they have a passion for, such as working with children, obstetrics or in surgical settings. If you enjoy a challenge every now and then, are a quick thinker and can also tolerate moving from potential disaster to periods of boredom with little to do, then this might be a good profession for you. In addition, you must be good at making rounds and explaining the procedures as well as the medications to your patients along with the potential risks, then listening to their concerns and answering their questions truthfully and to the best of your ability.
If you’ve considered becoming an anesthesiologist, but after reading the requirements and responsibilities are having second thoughts, it’s important to weigh all of your options because the financial and time commitments are intense. With this in mind, even if you discover that anesthesiology isn’t something that you enjoy, you’ll still be a medical doctor and you can choose a different specialization. During the internships and residencies you’ll learn more about what is involved and how well it fits in with your personal preferences and your career goals. It’s a very rewarding career and the pay is excellent.