On the Job
Anesthesiologists are doctors who give patients drugs to relieve pain or put them to sleep during surgery.
When you think of anesthesia, you probably think about sleep. After all, you are being "put under" during a procedure. Yet, anesthesia is actually about the management of pain during and after surgery. Becoming voluntarily unconscious is part of that process - not the main goal.Anesthesiologists must be familiar with patients' conditions in order to determine the best way to treat them. They begin by reading patients' medical charts. They look for allergies and read the comments of family doctors and specialists. In addition, anesthesiologists meet with patients and examine them. They discuss possible risks, listen to patients' concerns, and answer questions. They also talk with other members of the medical team. Together with the patient and other doctors, anesthesiologists decide which methods and medicines to use.
On the day of the procedure, anesthesiologists talk with patients and family members. They explain what to expect before, during, and after the procedure. Nurses prepare patients for most procedures. They insert a needle in the patient's vein and start an intravenous (IV) drip. Some drugs are liquids. Anesthesiologists may add these drugs to patients' IV using a needle. For some procedures, anesthesiologists start the IV. Before inserting any needles, they may swab patients' skin with a numbing solution.
Anesthesiologists make patients as comfortable as possible for the procedure. They place or assist others in placing patients in the best position. When the surgeon is ready, anesthesiologists give patients anesthetics. General anesthetics put patients to sleep. In contrast, local or regional anesthetics allow patients to remain awake but not feel pain. When patients are awake, anesthesiologists can talk to them to check on their comfort and awareness.
During the procedure, anesthesiologists monitor patients' temperature, pulse, heart, and breathing rates. They watch for bad reactions to the drugs. In these situations, they change doses or give different drugs to counteract reactions. Anesthesiologists record the types and amounts of medicines they give. They also supervise nurses and operating room assistants. These workers help them check vital signs and monitor the medications and patients.
Some anesthesiologists have additional duties. They may respond to emergencies in the hospital. They may also teach others about managing pain in a safe way. They teach medical students who are interns or residents. They also instruct or advise other staff members. To update their skills, anesthesiologists read articles in medical journals and take classes. They may do research in pain management and publish their findings.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Read medical charts.
- Review comments of other physicians.
- Meet with, examine, and interview patients. Order tests or procedures if necessary.
- Discuss and plan sedation with other doctors, nurses, and patients.
- Tell patients and family members what to expect.
- Position patients appropriately on the operating table for the type of procedure.
- Give anesthesia or sedating medicine during medical procedures.
- Monitor equipment during and after the procedure.
- Keep track of the flow of anesthesia and patients' vital signs. Record all activities.
- Speak with patients who are awake.
- Respond to any reactions or complications from anesthesia.
- Take classes to update skills.
- After the procedure, decide when patients are stable enough to be sent home or to another ward of the hospital.
- Schedule use of medical rooms and equipment.
- May teach medical students and other staff members.
- May help with emergencies in the hospital.
- May write and publish articles.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Assist and care for others.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Document and record information.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Work with the public.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Analyze data or information.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Provide advice and consultation to others.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Process information.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Control machines and processes.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Have a high level of social interaction with patients, family members, and other medical workers.
- Communicate daily by telephone and in person. They may also use e-mail, but less frequently.
- Work with a team of doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.
- Are responsible for the work done by the anesthesia team.
- Are placed in conflict situations where others might be unpleasant or angry on a weekly basis.
- Always work indoors in hospitals, surgical clinics, and other medical settings.
- Often wear hospital uniforms.
- Always wear protective or safety gear, such as latex gloves and protective glasses.
- Are regularly exposed to diseases, infections, and contaminants in the hospital.
- Are often exposed to radiation. They usually wear special protective gear, such as a lead apron, to protect themselves.
- Are sometimes exposed to sounds and noises that are loud or distracting.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous conditions.
- Work very close to patients, often within inches.
- Must be very certain that all details and tasks of the job are completed accurately. Errors can have painful or even fatal consequences for patients.
- Must remain alert to frequent changes in patients' vital signs. Must be alert to unexpected events, such as allergic reactions to anesthetics.
- Make decisions that impact their patients, doctors, and their employer on a daily basis. They may consult with other doctors prior to procedures, but during surgeries anesthesiologists make decisions about patient care without input from others.
- Set their daily tasks and goals for the day without consulting a superior first.
- Work in a competitive, stressful atmosphere where deadlines are firm.
- May repeat the same physical and mental activities.
- May work any shift, weekends, and holidays.
- May be on-call any hour of the day or night.
- May travel around town to work at surgical centers and hospitals. Anesthesiologists also travel out of town to attend conferences, workshops, and meetings.
- Typically work 40 or more hours per week.
- Usually work an established schedule.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Stand or sit during procedures.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Use fingers and hands to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.