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My job explained: Anaesthetist

As an anaesthetist, Anna Dennis is responsible for making hospital operations as painless as possible. Read on to find out more.

Can you tell us a bit about your job?

An anaesthetist’s job is very varied. Our role includes assessing and anaesthetising patients for surgery, which can be anything from open heart surgery to varicose veins. We also look after patients on intensive care units and provide emergency care to the very sick in the hospital or those coming through the emergency department. We provide acute and chronic pain services and pain relief and anaesthesia for labour in the delivery suit. Anaesthetists are the largest group of hospital doctors and many also hold managerial positions.

What qualifications and training do you have?

I am a doctor and spent six years in medical school. After medical school I spent several years doing various jobs in hospital medicine. I started specialising in anaesthesia eight years ago and will be soon eligible to apply for a consultants post.

I have a fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists which involved several exams. I have more recently sat a diploma in Intensive Care Medicine.

What was the training like?

Medical school involves lots of exams and many more hours then the average student. It is also a lot of fun with many social activities. Junior doctor training also involves exams, long and antisocial hours but again can be very social.

Why did you choose anaesthetics?

I chose my job for its variety. I enjoy working with lots of different specialities within the hospital. I like the practical aspects and enjoy seeing the physiology and pharmacology I have spent years studying in action!

What’s a typical working day like?

A typical working day involves assessing patients before surgery and discussing the anaesthesia and pain relief they will be receiving. Next is actually anaesthetising the patients which may include siting epidurals or specialist nerve blocks for pain relief. I then monitor them throughout surgery, administering the drugs or fluids they require and creating the best operating conditions for the surgeon. There could be time for a quick coffee at this point if you are working with another anaesthetist! Next waking the patient and making sure they are comfortable in the recovery room before they are discharged to the ward.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best bits are admitting very sick patients to intensive care and seeing them improve over a matter of hours. It is also very satisfying taking someone safely through a major operation and seeing them comfortable and pain-free afterwards.

What’s the worst thing about your job?

The night shifts and the hours spent sitting monitoring patients during long operations.

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to be an anaesthetist?

Be prepared for many years of hard work to complete the training. The rewards however are great with high levels of job satisfaction and a good life work balance compared with other hospital specialities.

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