Anesthesiologist Job Description:
Anesthesiologists give medications to make a patient lose consciousness, which keeps the patient from feeling pain during surgery. At the end of the surgical procedure, the anesthesiologist quits giving the medicines which keep the patient asleep. At other times, an anesthesiologist may use a "block" type of anesthesia which numbs a part of the body, so despite the patient being awake during surgery, the patient is not feeling any pain.
In some surgical procedures, the patient does not need to be unconscious or numb, but just needs to be sedated to help them through a procedure that is less painful. In that case, anesthesiologists monitor the patient's heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation while also providing the sedating medications. Another aspect of the anesthesiologist's job is pain management, either in the "acute" setting - the first few days after surgery, or in a "chronic" setting - months or years.
Can you describe your anesthesiology career steps?
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I knew I wanted to go into medicine in high school. I selected science courses and advanced placement classes in high school as well as in college. In addition to my major subjects and college requirements for my degree (chemistry in my case), I also had pre-med requirements to take. Late in college, I took the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) as a requirement for the application process for medical school. Additionally, there were face-to-face interviews, personal recommendations, as well as my college transcript involved in my acceptance process to medical school.
In medical school, the first two years were didactic, lecture-style learning for the most part. There were some hands-on patient contacts beginning our second year. Our third year was core rotations in the basic areas of medicine with hands-on patient care - pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics-gynecology, surgery, psychiatry and some basic electives.
Our fourth year involved out-patient medicine, a family practice rotation, and electives based on our interests or anticipated specialty training. After graduation from medical school, there was a flexible or rotating internship followed by three years of anesthesiology and all its areas of specialization such as cardiac, major vascular, neuroanesthesia, orthopedics, pediatrics, ENT, outpatient techniques, critical care medicine, etc.
How did you decide on an anesthesiology career?
In my case, I had worked ten years in another area of medicine, and knew I needed to change something. So, I returned to school for a second residency; after thinking back on my rotations in medical school and my first residency and remembering which rotations were the most enjoyable, I chose anesthesiology.
What is the job outlook for an anesthesiologist?
Currently, the job outlook is good. A few years back, a number of residencies closed their doors or dropped a number of slots per year. That created fewer people coming out of residency programs at a time when increasing numbers of practicing anesthesiologists were retiring or cutting back on their hours.
What factors can affect anesthesiology salaries?
Anesthesiology salaries are influenced by the level of the hospital that one works at (i.e. a trauma center vs. a small community hospital).
University hospitals pay far lower, but allow anesthesiologists time for research, teaching, etc. When I was a self-employed anesthesiologist, I was paid by the case - if we worked hard, we were paid for that hard work. As a hospital employee, I am probably paid more than what I could contract with insurance companies. The anesthesiologist's bill for services, whether self-employed or hospital employed, is a separate bill to the patient, and is not included on the hospital bill.
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