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Career Advice

How to become an Anaesthetist

surgeonWe tend to look at anaesthetists in two very different lights. On the one hand they are the blessed deliverers of pain soothing medications and on the other they are the last face you see before being dragged into the uncertain depths of a medically induced coma.  But whatever way you look at them, there is no denying the absolutely indispensable role that they play within our healthcare system.

What exactly is an anaesthetist ?

It’s a role whose true complexity is rather easily overlooked since a patient’s contact with them is usually fleeting and often marred by a cocktail of potent narcotics. Simply put, an anaesthetist is a doctor who is involved in the provision of anaesthetics (drugs which cause loss of sensation) to patients before, during and after surgery or other painful medical procedures.  Sounds simple enough right? Wrong! Anaesthesiology is an incredibly complex branch of medical practice which requires many, many years of education and training to master.

Job Activities

As you can imagine, the role of an anaesthetist is a complex one with a wide range of work activities, some of the things you could be expected to carry out on a daily basis are;

  • Helping to prep patients for surgery

  • Liaising with patients to explain procedures to them

  • Examining patients before, during and after surgery

  • Administering appropriate anaesthetics including; local anaesthetic (confined to a small area) regional anaesthetic  (within a larger more general area of the body) and general anaesthetic (used for more serious surgeries which require the patient to be completely unconscious)

  • Monitoring and observing patients vital signs judiciously throughout their procedure

  • Continuing to monitor patients after their procedure has been completed

  • Ensuring that any reactions or complications are quickly acted upon

  • Resuscitate and stabilise patients in the emergency department

  • Liaising with surgeons to plan procedures and ensure  the best treatment of the patient

Skills and attributes

Anaesthesiology is an incredibly specific field which requires the highest possible level of professional skill and medical proficiency. Of course, it is impossible to pin down what precise skills and attributes are necessary to become an anaesthetist, however there are a number of things which can certainly stand in your favour!

  • Ability to work in a calm and efficient manner in often high pressure environments

  • Ability to make decisions and quickly adapt to fast moving situations

  • Outstanding powers of observation to ensure that any slight changes in a patient’s condition can be identified and acted upon

  • Problem solving and the ability to plan for a number of different contingencies

  • A high level of professional integrity

  • The desire and willingness to constantly learn and develop throughout your career

  • A deep interest in human anatomy and the desire to dedicate your working life to care of your patients.

nursesHours of work and income

As is the case with the vast majority of roles within the healthcare arena the hours of work involved in being an anaesthetist can be very demanding. Legislation states that you cannot be required to work more than 48 hours in any one week period however you should be prepared that you may regularly be working right up to that threshold.

You should also be aware that anaesthetists are an essential component of the healthcare system and as such there will be regular occasions on which you will be required to work anti social hours. You will also find yourself being ‘on call’ on a regular basis so flexibility within your personal life is an absolute essential for anyone hoping to be a successful anaesthetist

The level of salary which you can expect to receive is highly dependent upon the experience/seniority that you have and the hospital / trust for which you are working. Generally speaking though the basic starting salary is £22,636 for Junior trainees in their first year, which will increase to around £28,076 in their second.  Thereafter the pay which you can expect to receive becomes quite unclear, however by the end of your 7 years specialty training, it would be fair to assume that a salary of around £60,000 could be expected.

Qualifications and Training

As mentioned above the route to becoming an anaesthetist is lengthy, academically intensive and hugely competitive. The trajectory of an individual’s training may vary slightly, but the most general route that is taken by most anaesthetists is as follows:

  1. Gaining outstanding A-Level results – Of all university areas of study, medicine is the one that has the most consistently high entry requirements. Generally the lowest grades which will ever be requested are AAB to include (usually) Chemistry along with at least one other science subject or maths.  Most entrants will also be subject to a UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) or BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) to further confirm their aptitude and suitability for a career in medicine.

  1. Completion of medical school – This is will take 5-6 years and will provide you with the basic knowledge required for all medical specialities.

  1. A two-year foundation programme during which you will be required to work work across a wide range of clinical settings encompassing everything from acute care to mental health. By the time you have completed this portion of your training you will be fully registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) and be in a position to begin your specialist training in anaesthetics.

  1. Specialist training – a highly intensive seven year work based training programme which forms the final stage of your training and education to become a anaesthetist.

If you still fancy becoming an anaesthetist then good luck and we hope that you found this quick guide useful, but if the thought of all that training is making you sleepy why not take a look at some of the other great careers in our career directory?


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