What do Anaesthetists do?

Anaesthetists form the largest single hospital medical specialty and their skills are used in all aspects of patient care. Whilst the perioperative anaesthetic care of the surgical patient is the core of specialty work (and this includes all types of surgery from simple body surface surgery in adults to the most complex surgery in patients of all ages, including the premature newborn) many anaesthetists have a much wider scope of practice which may include:

  • The preoperative preparation of surgical patients
  • The resuscitation and stabilisation of patients in the Emergency Department
  • Pain relief in labour and obstetric anaesthesia
  • Intensive care medicine
  • Transport of acutely ill and injured patients
  • Pre-hospital emergency care
  • Pain medicine including:
    • The relief of post-operative pain
    • Acute pain medicine and the management of acute teams
    • Chronic and cancer pain management
  • The provision of sedation and anaesthesia for patients undergoing various procedures outside the operating theatre. Examples of this include different endoscopic procedures, interventional radiology and dental surgery (this list is not exclusive).

Why Anaesthesia?

'Anaesthesia merges all the reasons I wanted to become a doctor: advanced understanding of basic science; communicating with patients and their loved ones; performing intricate clinical skills; relieving pain; teaching others, and continually expanding my own knowledge and understanding'
Specialty Registrar

'Anaesthetics is a very varied specialty.  You never know what each day is going to hold - relieving pain on labour ward, resuscitating a sick patient in ITU or participating in an elective theatre list or chronic pain clinic. There is something for everyone.  You could for instance be providing pain relief for a mother in childbirth on the labour ward and then later be anaesthetising a fit healthy football player with damaged knee ligaments'
Specialty Registrar

In addition to these challenging clinical roles, anaesthetists often occupy key management roles such as Clinical Director, or Medical Director as anaesthetists’ wide experience of working across many specialty boundaries, helps them to see the 'whole picture' in relation to the management of healthcare.

The anaesthetist's major role lies in providing anaesthesia during surgery, but this role is ever widening. For example anaesthetists are leading the development of preoperative assessment of surgical patients and the quantification of risk. They are leading the development of acute pain teams for the relief of post-operative pain, and providing anaesthesia and pain relief in obstetric units. Anaesthetists often lead the clinical management of intensive care units alongside other specialties, and work closely with Emergency Physicians to treat emergency patients. They provide care for patients in chronic pain clinics, provide anaesthesia in psychiatric units for patients receiving ECT, as well as the provision of sedation and anaesthesia for patients undergoing interventional radiology and radio-therapy.

During training in anaesthesia there may be opportunities to take time out of program to gain experience abroad, or undertake a period of research. Anaesthesia is an international specialty meaning that your skills are highly valued worldwide from such varied locations as a small village clinic in Africa, to working in a leading research institution in North America or Australia.

Dr Chris Gough

Dr Chris Gough

  • Trainee - ACCS anaesthesia 2011/2012

I had little experience of Anaesthesia, and therefore had never really considered it as a career choice, until I started my Foundation Training. By chance my first job as an F1 was in an Intensive Care Unit, which despite being a terrifying prospect as a newly qualified Doctor, was a job I quickly began to love, and since then I have never looked back. Anaesthesia (and the exposure to Intensive Care) offers a unique opportunity to care for the 'whole' patient while managing them through their surgery, to facilitating the management of the sickest patients in the hospital (frequently when your colleagues in other specialties are no longer comfortable managing them). The responsibility is great, but so are the interactions with members of almost every hospital specialty, making it a fantastically 'social' career.


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