An anesthesiologist is a medical practitioner responsible for leading the Anesthesia Care Team, delivering anesthesia, evaluating, monitoring and supervising patients before, during and after surgery. If you are interested in a career in the medical field, especially concerning surgery and theater, this is a career you may want consider. There are various requirements that one must meet to become a board certified anesthesiologist. This article reviews the steps of becoming an anesthesiologist and all details that you need to know. We are going to discuss how to become an anesthesiologist, medical school admissions, anesthesiologist residency, training and certification.
Who is An Anesthesiologist?
An anesthesiologist can be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) or a Doctor of Medicine (MD). An anesthesiologist is trained to use anesthesia on patients before and during different medical surgeries and procedures. Anesthesiologists use different anesthetics on patients which may include general anesthesia and mild numbing of a patient or part of the body. An anesthesiologist works hand in hand with surgeons, obstetricians, other doctors, nurses and surgical technologists.
Anesthesiologists receive extensive training in anesthetics, physiology, pharmacology and other important medical disciplines. Anesthesiologists are trained to ensure that patients are safe during medical procedures such as surgery. It is very important for an anesthesiologist to know how to monitor a patient’s blood pressure, respiration rates, airways, cardiovascular and pulmonary health during the entire medical procedure. If any issue arise, an anesthesiologist must be in a position to resuscitate the patient or ensure that the patient is back to health through any other way.
How to Become An Anesthesiologist
There are various requirements that one must meet to become a board certified anesthesiologist. From academic requirements to licensing and certification, these requirements are mandatory in the United States. Becoming a certified practitioner takes approximately twelve years which are broken down into various stages. To begin with, one must take a four-year bachelor’s degree course, followed by other requirements including educational and training requirements. The remainder of this article will discuss a step-by-step procedure on how to become an anesthesiologist.
Obtain A Bachelor’s Degree
This is the first step in the twelve-year journey of becoming an anesthesiologist. One must first have a bachelor’s degree in any offered discipline. The bachelor’s degree should, however, have a background in natural sciences, with biology being the most common degree path. A student planning to become an anesthesiologist also needs to have good mastery of English, chemistry, physics and mathematics. There are various colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degree programs that help students to prepare for medical school. You can do your research on the best schools and bachelor’s degree programs before you begin the course.
Apply for Medical School
The medical school selection process is quite competitive and applicants should ensure that they are prepared to present their strongest application. Top grades are a prerequisite for medical school admissions. The American Medical Association (AMA) proposes a cumulative GPA of 3.5 – 4.0 for joining medical school. You can also present information that shows you are passionate about becoming a medical practitioner. This information can be any experience you have gained working or volunteering in healthcare.
When working or volunteering in any healthcare facility, you can network with professionals and not only learn from them but also secure medical school letters of recommendation. These letters can be included in your medical school application to help make you a competitive applicant. International Medical Aid’s Pre-Medicine Internship Program is one good platform to gain experience and recommendations for medical school.
To join medical school as a future anesthesiologist, you need to do well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This exam is mandatory and it tests how well a candidate understands various important subjects including biology, physics, general chemistry and biochemistry. It also tests how good a candidate is in critical-thinking, problem-solving, reading and writing. The test is in form of multiple-choice questions and has four sections; Biological Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Chemical and Physical Sciences and Behavioral Sciences.
Medical school applicants can prepare for the MCAT using various materials including online content. The Association of American Medical Colleges, for instance, has content on its website that covers every section included on the exam. There are also MCAT Sample Tests that students can use to prepare for the actual exam.
Attend Medical School
With a strong GPA and MCAT, aspiring anesthesiologists must attend medical school for four years. In the first year, the students take basic science courses. In the second year, the students focus on organ systems.
In the third year of medical school, students receive clinical training and get patient care experience under supervision. During this third year, students have clinical rotations where they diagnose and offer treatment to patients, working under the supervision of professional practitioners. This is a good way for the students to gain first-hand experience in the field. In the last year of medical school, the students continue to be involved in patient care services for more experience. These services include acute care and ambulatory care.
Most medical schools have electives that students opt to take when they get the third or fourth year of medical school. Taking the electives is advisable for medical students who are eyeing the anesthesiologist career. This is because the third- and fourth-year electives and experiences allow the students to work together with professional anesthesiologists. The opportunity offers students the chance to learn, network and gain experience. Aspiring anesthesiologists attending medical school should ensure they prepare well for the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination). They are required to take this test to become licensed as per the United States guidelines.
Materials are available to help the students in preparation for the exam, including content on the USMLE website. The examination has three sections and aims at testing how well the graduating medical students can apply medical concepts and knowledge. It also tests on the students’ ability to apply fundamental principles of proper patient care and safety. The first and second sections of the USMLE are either taken when in medical school or after graduating. Students take the third section of the exam after obtaining an MD degree.
Once a future anesthesiologist receives an MD degree, they are required to attend a residency program for another four years. The first year is a clinical base year where the resident doctors are involved in hospital rotations. In the three years of residency left, residents focus on CA (Clinical Anesthesia) training.
The CA training begins with residents working preceptors in the faculty where they receive lessons on the fundamental basics of anesthesia, in the second year of residency. The third year, second of CA training, is when resident take part in rotations that are relevant in anesthesiology. The final year is when residents are allowed to select either clinical research or advanced clinical training.
In the residency, there are two types of programs. These are the categorical and advanced programs. The categorical programs are integrated and take all the four years of residency in one center. The first year, also referred to as the intern year, can be a surgical or medicine year or a good blend of the two. The residency or intern period helps students to gain working experience.
The process of how to become an anesthesiologist involves plenty of team work as the physicians work closely with surgeons and other practitioners. Through the residency, therefore, future anesthesiologists not only learn how to carry out their duties but also how to work in a team. The International Medical Aid Medicine Internship is a good platform for medical resident to gain intern experience and work with professionals in the sector.
When it comes to advanced residency programs, students have their intern year and clinical anesthesia in different programs. The intern year in this case is known as the transitional year and it may be this way in other medical specialties as well. In the transition year, resident students cover medicine, research, electives and surgery.
Obtain State Licensure
To practice as an anesthesiologist, you need to be accredited by the state where you intend to work. This means that you apply for state licensing through the medical board in the particular state. You need to have performed well on the USMLE for the medical board to consider your licensing application.
You also need to have passed and obtained a bachelor’s degree, graduated from a recognized medical school and completed residence training in anesthesiology. You also need to have performed well in all written and practical examinations. In short, these are the requirement for getting licensed to practice as a professional anesthesiologist in the United States.
It is not mandatory for an anesthesiologist to obtain board certification, it is optional. However, the anesthesiologists with board certification are more competitive in the job market compared to those without. Board certification for anesthesiologists is offered by the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) and the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA).
Before getting certified, the physician takes an exam and performing well in the test means that they get certified. This process makes the physician a board-certified anesthesiologist. There are also other optional certifications that one can consider as an anesthesiologist.
Necessary Skills That For Anesthesiologist
Even as we respond to the question on how to become an anesthesiologist, there are skills and competencies that an anesthesiologist needs to have before they begin to work with patients.
- Strong Communication Skills – An anesthesiologist should have good communication skills as there is a lot of interaction involved between him/her and the patients and other care team members.
- Problem Solving and Organizational Skills – The work of an anesthesiologist is delicate in ensuring the health and safety of a patient during medical procedures like surgery. For this reason, this physician should be good at organizing and solving problems to ensure that the health of patients is in competent hands.
- Critical Thinking – Anesthesiologists make critical decisions in relation to the health of patients. It is, therefore, important for these physicians to possess logic and reasoning abilities. They should be in a position to review the strengths and downside of a decision before implementing it. They should make a decision and know all possible outcomes when implemented.
- Active Listening – Being an active listener is a vital skill for anesthesiologists. They need to give their full attention to patients, the team of physicians and the surgery team. In active listening, anesthesiologists internalize all information and content properly for the good of the patients.
- Leadership Skills – Skills of leading are important as anesthesiologists are basically in charge of patients’ health at delicate times.
- Knowledgeable – This is without a doubt one of the main skills that anesthesiologists should posess. The doctor should be well informed and up-to-date on most if not all of the relevant knowledge. This helps him/her to make informed decisions to ensure the health of patients.
A good anesthesiologist should also be able to use specialized medical apparatus and computer software to better the services and be more efficient. It is also important for an anesthesiologist to have empathy and the willingness the help patients. Anesthesiologists should also strive to show patience at all times.
Duties and Roles of An Anesthesiologist
An anesthesiologist is tasked with ensuring the health and safety of patients during medical procedures such as surgery. The anesthesiologist monitors the health condition and variations of a patient before surgery. The medical practitioner also remains with the patient during the entire medical procedure to ensure that the patient’s health is stable all through to post-anesthesia. The roles of an anesthesiologist include:
- Keenly monitoring the vital signs of a patient in preparation for surgery
- Monitoring the depth and level of anesthesia
- Changing the depth and level of anesthesia as needed
- Identifying and responding to adverse events during surgery
- Safe administering of anesthesia to patients to avoid injuries or any other harm
Before surgery which is a major medical procedure, and anesthesiologist works closely with patients to ensure that they can handle anesthesia and the surgery at hand. The anesthesiologist reviews the patient’s medical history and also interacts with the patient responding to any questions about anesthesia in relation to the medical procedure. When the patient is stable, the anesthesiologist injects anesthesia into the patient before surgery begins. This doctor then embarks on monitoring of the patient’s vital signs and health.
During the entire time when surgery is ongoing, the anesthesiologist closely monitors the patient. The doctor helps to manage pain for the patient and ensure that the patient’s vital signs are okay. If the patient has any chronic illness, the anesthesiologist helps in managing the condition during the medical procedure. Such chronic illnesses include asthma or diabetes. In case any issue comes up during the medical procedure, the anesthesiologist helps in managing the issues, ensuring that the patient’s health is maintained.
The anesthesiologist continues to monitor the patient’s health immediately after the surgery is done. The doctor also oversees the effects of the anesthesia on the patient after the surgery and lets the medical team know if the patient is safe to leave or be moved. In some cases anesthetic effects lead to pain and the physician helps to prescribe medication to manage the pain.
Majority of anesthesiologists operate under the surgical setting and others specialize in managing and treating of pain caused by chronic ailments. This means that the physician can treat migraines or other chronic situations that cause regular pain in patients.
Salary and Job Growth
According to the Bureau of Labor, an anesthesiologist earns $261,730 on average every year. This makes these physicians among the best paid professionals in the United States. The leading anesthesiologist earn more than $275,000 annually. This shows that a career in anesthesiology is worth the many years one spends in school.
The health sector continues to grow each year with demand for physicians being on the rise. It is estimated that employment opportunities for anesthesiologists will grow at 7% between now and 2028. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows that the demand for anesthesiologists is growing faster than that of other professions. This is an encouraging factor for those studying to become anesthesiologists and those planning to start the process in future.
Best Anesthesiologist Schools
There are various colleges that offer competitive and comprehensive anesthesiology programs and they include the following:
- Harvard University
- Johns Hopkins University
- University of California in San Francisco
- Duke University
- University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
These and other institutions concentrate well on their anesthesiology programs. Anesthesiologist schools offer students’ comprehensive courses and make them more competitive.
Academic Concentrations for Anesthesiologist
When studying to become an anesthesiologist, there are sub-specialties that one can specialize in. The subspecialties mainly require advance skills and more training. Upon meeting the standard education requirements, you can consider the following sub-specialties:
- Critical Care Medicine – A critical care anesthesiologist manages and oversees critical patients in the ICU. The anesthesiologist works hand in hand with the ICU team in a hospital to ensure that the health of a patient is well taken care of. A critical care anesthesiologist offers diagnosis and treatment to patients with critical injuries or ailments. This includes victims of trauma and people with multi organ dysfunction.
- Neuro-critical Care – In neuro-critical care, an anesthesiologist is trained to offer diagnosis and management of serious neurological ailments. The conditions include traumatic brain injury and encephalitis. Neuro-critical care anesthesiologists work hand in hand with neurosurgeons and neurologists in monitoring the health of patients as they undergo surgery. The anesthesiologists also monitor the patients before and after surgery.
- Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine – A regional and acute pain medicine anesthesiologist is mainly involved in less invasive medical procedures. These physicians attend to patients before surgery, mainly outside the operating room. Regional anesthesia is used to block pain in a particular body part. This can for instance be a knee block for an ACL procedure. In this case, regional anesthesia helps the patient not to feel anything from the knee downwards. Regional anesthesiology and acute pain medicine are among the highest paid subspecialties in the field.
- Cardiothoracic – A cardiothoracic anesthesiologist focuses on anesthesiology in relation to chest and heart invasive medical procedures and surgeries. These anesthesiologists are also trained to oversee the physical health of a patient by their sight to see how the body responds to drugs for any surgical procedure. They also do this monitoring of patients using invasive monitors. Cardiothoracic anesthesiologists learn cardiac conditions, necessary technology for surgical procedures and about pre—operative and postoperative care.
- Obstetrics Anesthesiology – This is an anesthesiologist who helps mothers deliver babies. If you are passionate about maternity operations and helping mothers, this is a subspecialty you can consider. The physician aids in the c-sections during baby delivery helping mothers go through the procedure safely while also ensuring the safety of the babies. This is considered as one of the most fulfilling anesthesiology specializations.
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine – When an anesthesiologist specializes in hospice and palliative medicine, he/she offers critical care to manage pain and suffering that patients suffering from life-limiting illnesses experience. The anesthesiologist works closely with a hospice and palliative care team to improve and maximize the quality of life. The team also assists these delicate patients physically, spiritually, psychologically and socially.
- Pediatric – A pediatric anesthesiologist focuses on treating infants, neonates, children and adolescents. They monitor these patients before, during and after surgery. They also diagnose them for any ailments and advise on the right therapeutic procedures to ensure the safety of the children when anesthesia is administered.
In-Patient and Outpatient Anesthesiology Practice
Since surgery is mostly associated with inpatient services, it is important to note that there is an outpatient aspect of anesthesia. Inpatient anesthesiologists work in an operating room in hospitals. This operating rooms handle larger surgeries requiring general anesthesia which makes patients unconscious, requiring breathing assistance. In some cases, patients require sedation and not general anesthesia.
Sedating a patient depresses their awareness to the surrounding environment, making them less responsive to any external stimuli. Patients who receive sedation normally suffer from associated amnesia. Outpatient anesthesiologists mainly give sedation and nor general anesthesia to patients. With sedation, the medical procedures are often simpler and less invasive compared to major surgeries that require general anesthesia and inpatient services.
Outpatient procedures are mainly performed in clinics and outpatient procedure centers. Some of the outpatient procedures include colonoscopies and cataract surgeries where sedation is administered.
What You Need to Know Before Becoming An Anesthesiologist
A career in anesthesiology is considered one of the lifestyle careers because the physicians are well compensated. This is an attractive factor for many. The career is also flexible since anesthesiologists can work on regular shifts making it possible for them to attend to other things. For professionals in any career, job flexibility is an attractive feature. Anesthesiologists choose whether to work in clinic, medical schools or community hospitals. This is a good aspect because there are anesthesiologists who prefer hospital practice while others choose to work in academic medicine.
On the downside, anesthesiologists often do not get the recognition they deserve. It is a career that not many people even know about. This is unless one has been to an operating room or met an anesthesiologist. In most cases, surgeries are known to be handled by surgeons. When a surgery is successful, surgeons get the recognition.
Anesthesiologists also go through intensive pressure at work. They are required to make critical decisions about the health of patients and in most cases, the decisions may be required quickly in very sensitive situations. While this is not the case all the time, it happens quite often and you may want to avoid being an anesthesiologist is you do not work well under pressure.
Another setback with anesthesiology is that mid-level service providers are pushing to be allowed to operate independently. This will greatly affect this career and we wait to see how it turn out, even as many hospitals begin working with mid-level providers such as CRNAs.
If you are passionate about pharmacology and physiology, then a career in anesthesiology would suit you well. You can also consider becoming an anesthesiologist if you work well under pressure and values seeing people healthy even after delicate conditions. If you love working in the operating room, hand in hand with surgeons, an anesthesiologist is a career you should consider. Anesthesiology is not a very competitive specialties as many residency positions go unfilled each year; however, the training and licensing requirements are extensive and rigorous.
There are various careers one can go for in the medical sector and becoming an anesthesiologist is one of them. While the requirements are many, taking several years, it is a fulfilling career, especially because an anesthesiologist helps to take care of patients at a critical time of their life. We hope that we have given you the information you need regarding medical school admissions, how to become an anesthesiologist and anesthesiologist school admissions.