Other professional roles
As highly qualified professionals, anaesthetist often do many things other than anaesthetising patients for surgery.
Firstly, we have a responsibility to keep ourselves educated. Anaesthesia and surgery have become much safer and better over the last 20 years, and this is likely to continue over the next 20 years. If I do not keep myself educated, then I will still be performing anaesthetics in 20 years time the same way that I am today, even though better ways will be available. I have a responsibility to read journals, attend conferences, and perform my own research to keep myself in touch with the latest advances in knowledge and understanding.
Similarly, we have much better drugs, ventilators, and monitoring equipment than we had 20 years ago. These things don’t just appear in a hospital for us to use. Anaesthetists are part of hospital committees, and it is anaesthetists who research and evaluate new equipment and drugs, and who organise for them to be bought or sourced by the hospital. When things do not work perfectly, it is anaesthetists who liase with the equipment manufacturers to refine thier products.
All doctors have a responsibility to educate others, and anaesthetists are no exception. Medical students, junior doctors, anaesthetic trainees, and other members of the theatre team such as theatre nurses all need continuing education, and anaesthetists are involved in teaching all of these groups of people.
In countries much less fortunate than us, their anaesthetists only receive basic training and only have basic equipment at their disposal, hence many patients die who would not have died here in Australia. Australian anaesthetists co-ordinate programs to train overseas anaesthetists and to supply them with better equipment than they already have. There is an emphasis on sustainability and eventual self-sufficiency, and some programs are more successful than others, but due to these programs Australian anaesthetists have probably saved more lives internationally than they have saved in Australia, for a fraction of the cost.
Anaesthetists have a broad knowledge of many aspects of medicine, and are indispensible, even if only at times, in most sections of the hospital. Because of this anaesthetists are often very valuable in hospital administrations, or even liasing with governments, about how things should be done or how things could be done better.
Hospitals need to know what they are doing well and what they are doing badly, and the only way to identify this is to collect data and compare the data with that of other hospitals. If a hospital is doing badly at something, they can learn how hospitals that are doing well at that thing are doing it better, and if a hospital is doing well at something, then other hospitals can learn from them how they are doing it so well. Anaesthetists are commonly involved in co-ordinating “Quality Assurance” programs, in which they must collaborate with many health care workers so that sensible data is thoroughly collected over a long time period, and then appropriately analysed and, if needed, appropriately acted upon.