How To Become an Anaesthesiologist (With Skills and Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 October 2022

Published 8 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An anaesthesiologist is a lucrative profession in the healthcare field. They collaborate with other doctors, interact directly with patients and participate in complex medical operations. Learning how to become an anaesthesiologist can help you determine if the position aligns with your interests. In this article, we define the role of an anaesthesiologist and explain their skill set, education and salary insight.

Related: What Is a Locum Doctor? (With Duties, Skills and Salary)

What is an anaesthesiologist?

An anaesthesiologist is a medical doctor who oversees the administration of anaesthesia to patients for medical procedures. Working with a team of healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, anaesthesiologists ensure the patient feels relaxed and still while receiving medical care. They also assess the patient's physical condition, including their heart rate and blood pressure, throughout the procedure and distribute more anaesthesia when necessary. Their specialities include:

  • Pediatric anaesthesia: Pediatric anaesthesia involves children patients undergoing medical procedures.

  • Cardiac anaesthesia: Heart surgeries may require anaesthesiologists to sedate the patients for surgeons to operate safely.

  • Neuroanaesthesia: The procedures may treat neurological conditions involving the brain or spinal cord.

  • Obstetrics: During childbirth, anaesthesiologists deliver medicine to ease labour pains in the patient.

Related: What Is General Practitioner? (Plus Salary and FAQs)

How to become an anaesthesiologist

These are the abilities of how to become an anaesthesiologist that you may require in your journey:

Attention to detail

Detail orientation enables anaesthesiologists to develop effective treatment plans and administer the right amounts of medicine to patients. Before the surgery takes place, the doctor pays attention to the patient's physical condition and the objectives of the procedure as they determine the type of sedation that's necessary. They're also alert during and after the surgery to ensure the patient receives quality medical care and recovers as expected. Having close attention to detail also empowers anaesthesiologists to form accurate assessments of their patients and the healthcare activities that they participate in.

Read more: Detail-Oriented Skills: Definition and Tips

Critical thinking

Anaesthesiologists practise critical thinking to analyse a medical situation and determine an appropriate course of action. For example, when a fellow physician schedules a surgery, the anaesthesiologist may contemplate how to best manage the patient's pain throughout and following the operation. During the recovery process, the anaesthesiologist may also think critically about the patient's symptoms and what they represent about their physical condition. Critical thinking can help develop research about anaesthesia and compare the effectiveness of multiple treatment options. It is essential for anaesthesiologists to make informed decisions to deliver the best medical care.

Related: 9 Essential Critical Thinking Skills and How To Develop Them

Communication

With competent communication, anaesthesiologists can explain the purpose and effects of the medicine to patients in ways they can understand. The doctors may simplify complicated medical language to clarify the steps of the procedure and describe how the sedation can relieve or manage pain. Their interpersonal skills can allow them to connect with the patient, which may ease the patient's concerns about consenting to the operation.

Anaesthesiologists also practise clear communication with the rest of the medical team. When planning the procedure, it's important that every physician discusses the objectives for achieving positive patient outcomes. Anaesthesiologists may explain how their expertise is necessary for the patient, and they know how to ask questions and indicate their positions thoroughly. Strong communicative abilities may be necessary for conversations with the patient's families and encounters with other professionals in the hospital, such as technicians.

Read more: How To Improve Communication Skills (With Definition and Examples)

Time management

The hospital can be a fast-paced environment, so it's necessary for anaesthesiologists to manage their work schedules effectively. If they're participating in multiple operations in one day, then they may consider how much time they can dedicate to their surgical protocols.

They can also practise time management to adjust their schedules when unforeseen circumstances emerge, such as an emergency situation with a patient or surgery that proceeded longer than expected. The demand for an anaesthesiologist's work may be necessary for several areas of the facility, so designating hours for every task can enable the doctors to perform well in their roles.

Related: Time Management Skills: Examples and Improvement Strategies

Adaptability

Adaptability is the ability to adjust your actions to changing situations in the workplace. Anaesthesiologists who are highly adaptable can handle their job responsibilities even when their circumstances have changed.

For example, if a patient recovers more quickly after surgery than anticipated, then the doctor may revisit the treatment plan and make an assessment that reflects the improvement. If the hospital experiences an influx of new situations, then the anaesthesiologist may be more flexible in devoting time to each patient and their family. The activities in a medical facility may often change, so being adaptable in their approaches to their role can make an anaesthesiologist more competent.

Related: Adaptability Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence enables anaesthesiologists to empathise with their patients. They can understand why the patients may have concerns about receiving medical treatment, which helps the doctors better communicate the benefits and provide informed answers to the patients' questions. They can also gain the willingness to listen to the concerns of other physicians on the team, which can strengthen collaboration and make the work environment more pleasant. For example, if a surgeon expresses apprehension about sedating a patient during the procedure, then the anaesthesiologist may use emotional intelligence to hear the surgeon's argument and devise a solution that satisfies everyone's objectives.

Related: Emotional Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Instructional leadership

Instructional leadership is the ability to teach professionals how to perform occupational tasks. Anaaesthesiologists understand how to direct nurse anaesthetists to deliver the correct type and amounts of medicine to their patients. They can also delegate assignments according to each team member's technical and soft skill set, which allows them to treat the patient more quickly. For instance, if an urgent procedure requires the anaesthesiologist to supervise the patient's vitals, then the doctor may practise instructional leadership to assign patients to the other qualified health specialists on the team.

Related: Effective Leadership: Definition and How to Apply It

What does an anaesthesiologist do?

Anaesthesiologists perform duties before, during and after the medical procedure. They meet directly with the patients and seek updates from the other physicians on the medical team. Their typical responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing the patient's medical history to determine their readiness for surgery

  • Answering the patient's questions about the anaesthesia used for a procedure

  • Dispensing the anaesthesia to the patient

  • Monitoring the patient's reactions to the anaesthesia

  • Managing chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, throughout the surgery

  • Addressing problems related to the anaesthesia used during the procedure

  • Tracking the patient's recovery from the anaesthetic side effects

  • Determining when the patient is ready to go home or move to another room in the hospital

  • Helping to establish a treatment plan to alleviate pain after the patient's discharge

  • Stabilising patients during emergency situations

Related: What Is Health Service Management? Definition and Career Guide

Is it hard to become an anaesthesiologist?

The time commitment and extensive training to learn anaesthesiology can make it a challenging career to pursue. For example, the role often requires you to dedicate four years to your collegiate studies and an additional four years of medical school. Then, it's essential you obtain the certifications that qualify you to meet with patients in a medical capacity. Although the schooling may demand a lot of your time, a career as an anaesthesiologist can reward you if you're passionate about helping others. You can gain firsthand experience in watching your patients respond well to medicine and improve their quality of life.

Related: A Guide on How To Become a Diagnostic Radiographer

What should you major in to become an anaesthesiologist?

Aspiring anaesthesiologists often study biology at the undergraduate level before attending medical school. They can learn to identify parts of the body and the medical terminology healthcare professionals use in the industry. To gain admission into medical school, which is a requirement for becoming a doctor, it may be important for college students to earn excellent grades in their bachelor's degree programme. Consider enrolling in a biology curriculum to build foundational knowledge for advancing in the field of medicine.

Related: 11 Anaesthesiologist Skills To Develop (Plus Salary)

What is the salary of an anaesthesiologist?

The average salary of an anaesthesiologist is $4,445 per month, but your earning potential may depend on how much work experience you have in the healthcare industry. For example, if you've worked as a physician for 20 years, then you may have a higher salary than a physician that recently graduated from medical school. Depending on their sizes and organisational budgets, some hospitals may also offer more lucrative salaries than others. Consider your employer and your qualifications for the position to anticipate your income level.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles