Anaesthetists are specialists in anaesthetics who are essential members of the surgical team, involved in some of the most complex medical procedures.
What do anaesthetists do?
Anaesthetists do much more than simply putting people to sleep – although their primary role is to administer anaesthetics. They are also actively involved in patient care, intra-operative care and help to develop treatments that are designed to ease chronic pain. After anaesthetising a patient, the anaesthetist has a responsibility to monitor their condition and observe them throughout the procedure. They must be ready and equipped to deal with sudden changes, which can require them to act under pressure and they must be confident in their decision-making. Anaesthetists have training in intensive care medicine, with the majority of doctors in intensive care units being trained anaesthetists. They work in acute settings and must therefore have an in-depth knowledge of urgent care and resuscitation skills. The use of anaesthetics requires expert knowledge of pharmacology and physiology. These types of specialists can be found in many different departments of the hospital, from the maternity ward and intensive care, to endoscopy units and the radiology department. In recent years, the following sub-specialities have become more prominent:
- Emergency surgery.
- Intensive care medicine.
- Pain management.
What procedures and tasks do anaesthetists carry out?
- Assess patients before operations in order to determine if it is safe to administer anaesthetic.
- Prescribe pre-operative medication.
- Administer pain-relief, including epidurals during labour.
- Intra and post-operative care.
- Monitor and observation.
- Administer nerve blocks.
- Sedation: patients are often sedated before procedures such as endoscopy to help them relax.
- Administer local anaesthetic.
- Run pain clinics.
Anaesthetics is a fast-paced speciality which requires expert knowledge, hard worker and dedication. You will also need the ability to think and act quickly. In order to be a successful anaesthetist, it is necessary to have the following qualities:
- The ability to act under pressure.
- Sound decision-making skills.
- The ability to work as part of a team.
- The ability to understand your own limitations and be willing to ask others for help.
- Good communication and social skills.
- Excellent assessment skills.
Training to become an anaesthetist
Anaesthetists are fully trained doctors who are able to treat patients in a variety of situations, including emergencies. Training to become an anaesthetist is long, hard work but the job is hugely rewarding. Junior doctors (graduates from undergraduate medicine programmes) start their foundation training within two years of working as a Senior House Officer, now known as F1 (first year) and F2 (second year) doctors.
After completing foundation training candidates must apply for speciality training, which will last for five years. During the training programme candidates must pass exams set by the Royal College of Anaesthetists. The two-part exam is known as the Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists. Candidates can only be included on the General Medical Council’s Specialist Register once they have completed the seven year training programme and gained the Certificate of Completion Training.
- Breast surgery
- Colorectal surgery
- Cosmetic surgery
- ENT surgery
- Foot and ankle surgery
- Gallbladder surgery
- Gastrointestinal surgery
- General physician
- General surgery
- Gynaecology and obstetrics
- Hand and wrist surgery
- Hernia surgery
- Hip surgery
- Joint and muscle
- Knee surgery
- Maxillofacial surgery
- Orthopaedic surgery
- Plastic and reconstructive surgery
- Sexual health
- Shoulder and elbow surgery
- Spinal surgery
- Sports injury surgery
- Thoracic surgery
- Transplant surgery
- Vascular specialists