Here are some frequently asked questions about anesthesiology that might give you a better idea of just how important this medical profession is in the safety and comfort of patients having surgery and anesthesia.
1. Describe the typical day of an anesthesiologist.
2. Why do you enjoy your job?
3. If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
4. Describe the work environment
5. What are some complications an anesthesiologist might face during surgery?
6. Do the benefits of anesthesia surpass the risks?
7. Would today's surgeries be possible without general anesthesia?
8. What qualities should a person possess to be successful in this career?
9. What are some good classes that I can take in both high school and college that will help me on this career path?
10. Do you experience a lot of high pressure situations? If so, how do you deal with them?
11. What are some of the rewarding experiences that you have had?
12. Why did you choose this career?
13. What sacrifices have you had to make, and were they worth it?
14. What other information and advice can you give to someone interested in this occupation?
1. Q. Describe the typical day of an anesthesiologist.
A. My typical day consists of arriving at the hospital between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. The first thing I do is check to see where I have been assigned for the day. I may be in an operating room (O.R.) giving an anesthetic, or in our pre-op area interviewing patients and preparing them for surgery, or in obstetrics helping moms have their babies safely and comfortably, or in charge of the O.R. that day. Some of our patients will need special procedures to prepare them for surgery, and I help with that too. If I am on call, I work 24 hours and then have the next day off. Otherwise, my day will end anywhere from 12 noon to 7 p.m.
2. Q. Why do you enjoy your job?
A. I love my job because I find medicine exciting and challenging. I have to use technical skills to perform procedures on patients, I have to use intellectual skills to problem solve, and I have to use personal skills to help patients get through the anxiety of surgery, anesthesia and sometimes the pain afterward.
3. Q. If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
A. I would like to change the unpredictability of the hours, but it is completely tied to the O.R. schedule. Of course, that schedule reflects both scheduled (elective) surgeries like gall bladder operations and tonsillectomies, as well as emergency surgeries, including childbirth, heart attacks and car accidents.
4. Q. Describe the work environment.
A. Our work environment is always changing. Some days are routine. However, when you least expect it, things can quickly become very exciting. The O.R. is stimulating, challenging and completely rewarding. I personally work in a close-knit group where we are similar to a supportive family.
5. Q. What are some complications an anesthesiologist might face during surgery?
A. As noted above, we often see side effects to all of the drugs that we use. These may be a lowering of blood pressure and a change in the pulse. Most anesthetic drugs depress the breathing stimulus, and the anesthesiologist must be prepared to support the patient's breathing. Rarely, the patient may experience significant changes in temperature, allergic reactions to drugs, damage to teeth due to the breathing tubes being placed in the trachea, bleeding problems, bronchospasm in the lungs, aspiration of stomach contents, or injury to nerves when nerve blocks are used. While this list may seem long, these reactions are very uncommon, especially in the healthy patient, but the anesthesiologist must be prepared not only to recognize any problem, but also he or she must know how to manage the problem.
6. Q. Do the benefits of anesthesia surpass the risks?
A. The risks of anesthesia are quite minimal. But in each case, the patient must weigh the benefits of the surgery (there is no need to give an anesthetic unless there is a need to do surgery) against the risks of the SURGERY AND THE ANESTHESIA! In some cases, the benefits or the surgery do not justify exposing the patient to the risks of anesthesia, such as when a patient with severe congestive heart failure may also have a painful knee. Although an artificial knee could reduce the pain, the patient in consultation with his or her physicians including the anesthesiologist, needs to weigh the benefits of a new knee with no pain versus the potential of more damage to the heart from the effects of anesthesia. Each case and each patient must be addressed as an individual, unique and different from any other patient.
7. Q. Would today's surgeries be possible without general anesthesia?
A. The simple answer is "NO!" Before anesthesia was first administered by Dr. Crawford W. Long in Jefferson, Georgia in 1842, the surgical treatment of diseases and trauma was extremely rare. On those rare occasions, patients suffering from gangrene of a leg or a serious fracture would be drugged with alcohol or morphine, and then restrained while a fast surgeon would perform the procedure. The accounts of these operations are horrifying. It is amazing how Dr. Long's discovery of ether as an anesthetic and the first public demonstration of an anesthetic by Dr. William T.G. Morton at Harvard in 1846 revolutionized the treatment of life-threatening ailments. The discovery of ether as an anesthetic at that time was unique because it was an American event, whereas most medical discoveries up to that time originated in Europe.
8. Q. What qualities should a person possess to be successful in this career?
A. To be successful in anesthesiology, it goes without saying that you must excel academically, but also an anesthesiologist has to be incredibly detailed-oriented, skillful at procedures, calm in stressful situations, and warm and caring to ease patient’s anxiety.
9. Q. What are some good classes that I can take in both high school and college that will help me on this career path?
A. I would take all the necessary pre-med requirements, but then I would take classes such as art, music and history. As your life progresses, having outside interests and hobbies will make you well rounded and better able to cope with the stress of medicine as a career.
10. Q. Do you experience a lot of high pressure situations? If so, how do you deal with them?
A. Yes, we frequently experience high-pressure situations, but in a way, we thrive on the excitement and that is what is so attractive about anesthesiology. I deal with stressful situations by simplifying them to "ABC" = airway, breathing, circulation. And, of course, I am always building on my knowledge, staying up to date on the latest techniques, anesthetic agents, research, monitoring equipment and technology.
11. Q. What are some of the rewarding experiences that you have had?
A. One of the most rewarding experiences is to have someone remember being comforted and placed at ease by your care. Surgery is very scary to most patients. When you least expect positive reinforcement, a note will be in your mailbox from a patient, and you know that you had an impact on their care--and their life.
12. Q. Why did you choose this career?
A. I chose medicine because I loved science. Even when I was very young, I was completely enamored with doctors--how they cared about other people, especially people who were sick and hurting. Anesthesiology has allowed me to combine my interests and continues to keep me challenged.
13. Q. What sacrifices have you had to make, and were they worth it?
A. I have struck a balance between my personal life and my professional life. I love my job, but I also love going to my children's classes at school, talking about being a doctor and what they might expect if they ever have to go to the hospital for surgery. I am a very hands-on parent. I also had worked in an academic setting, teaching others to practice anesthesiology. You don't have to be chair of the department to have a very exciting career and still spend time with family and friends.
14. Q. What other information and advice can you give to someone interested in this occupation?
A. If you are interested in medicine, find a mentor and visit a doctor for the day. GOOD LUCK!