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What is an Anaesthetist?

An anaesthetist is a type of specialist doctor, just like a cardiologist or a surgeon are other types of specialist doctor.

To become an anaesthetist, one first has to train to become a medical doctor and then work as a doctor for at least two years.  Then they must be accepted into a specialist training program and work as an anaesthetic registrar for a minimum of 5 years.

If one graduates from Year 12 aged 18 years, then the youngest that they could possibly become an anaesthetist is at the age of 30.

Anaesthetists specialise in understanding the body systems, in particular the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and how our anaesthetic and the surgery affects these systems.  This knowledge allows us to continually make minor adjustments to keep the body systems stable during an operation.

Anaesthetists are also experts in airway management, and experts in resuscitation.  These skills are occasionally called on during a seemingly routine operation.  Also, because we specialise in these aspects of medicine, we are often called to the most severe traumas in the emergency department to co-ordinate or to assist is the the management of these patients.

 

In very general terms, referring to anaesthetists as a specialty:

  • The only specialty with better understanding of the anatomy of the airway are Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) surgeons, and nobody has better ability to “manage” the airway.
  • The only specialty with better understanding of the physiology of the heart are cardiologists.
  • The only specialties with better understanding of the physiology of the lungs are respiratory physicians, and possibly intensive care physicians.
  • The only specialty with better understanding of the physiology of the vascular system are possibly intensive care physicians.
  • The only specialties with better understanding of the physiology of the brain and nervous system are neurologists and neurosurgeons.
  • The only specialty with better understanding of pain management are chronic pain physicians.
  • The only specialties with better understanding of the difference between adult and child physiology are paediatricians and paediatric intensivists.
  • No other specialty is more expert in vascular access (putting lines into veins and arteries), although intensive care physicians would be equal and some branches of some other specialties may be more expert.
  • No other specialty has a better record of safety management and quality improvement, especially with respect to difficult situations, human factors, and teamwork.