Anesthesiologists are physicians who play a central role in the operating room, making decisions to protect and regulate your critical life functions. They typically are the first to diagnose and treat any medical problems that may arise during surgery or the recovery period.
The practice of anesthesiology is broad and transcends the operating room. Anesthesiologists are experts in pain medicine; they help patients with chronic disease live better lives through pain management treatments every day. Additionally, their work in critical care units saves countless lives. Anesthesiologists treat patients with complications from pulmonary and cardiac issues, to infection control and advanced life support.
Prior to a surgery, anesthesiologists interview patients, take their medical history and order necessary pre-operative tests. When warranted, anesthesiologists also have the responsibility to postpone an operation, if they find that the patient is not ready for surgery. In this situation, anesthesiologists will then work with the patient and their colleagues to ensure each patient is at their peak health prior to surgery to assure the best possible outcome.
During surgery itself, from the first administration of the anesthetic, to the end of the procedure, they are a patient’s “breath of life.” Their years of medical school, as well as, their extensive training in physiology and pharmacology ensure they are able to recognize and respond quickly to medical emergencies during surgery.
Once surgery is over, their responsibility extends to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), where they monitor patients as they recover from anesthetics, and also provide post-operative (post-op) pain relief. In addition to their special role in surgery, anesthesiologists also provide sedation and pain relief for treatments/tests including MRIs, CAT scans and bone marrow tests. They assist with trauma cases in the ER, and provide pain relief to women in labor. Anesthesiologists also diagnose and treat patients with chronic, acute and cancer pain. During their careers, many anesthesiologists acquire additional training in specialty areas such as internal medicine, critical care and pain management which enhances their ability to serve as the patients’ guardian in the OR.
Becoming an anesthesiologist requires:
• 4 years of college, including pre-med courses
• 4 years of medical school
• 4 years of anesthesia residency (including 1 year of internship)
• 1 year fellowship in a specialty area (optional)