Anesthesiology is the medical specialty that focuses on the perioperative relief of pain. The specialists responsible for conducting the administration of anesthesia before, during or after a surgical procedure, are known as anesthesiologists. They are also known as anesthetists, depending on the country of practice.
Anesthesiologists require a basic training in medicine, which is later followed by a residency in anesthesiology. This training encompasses a wide range of subject areas, with particular emphasis on pharmacology, physiological monitoring, mechanical ventilation and neuroanatomy.
Anesthesia in a clinic operating room. Image Credit: Herzstaub / Shutterstock
For any aspiring physician in the United States, a college pre-medical course must first be completed. Pre-med courses typically include subject areas such as organic chemistry, biology, physics and calculus. The successful completion of four years of undergraduate education is a prerequisite for entry into medical school in addition to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Medical school lasts for a period of four years after which students are awarded an M.D. (i.e. a degree in medicine).
Following the completion of medical school, anesthesiologists in the making must then undergo an additional four years of residency in anesthesiology. After these four years, an additional year of fellowship is chosen by many students to gain further experience in a subspecialty, such as pain medicine, critical care, obstetric anesthesiology and neuro-anesthesiology. The first year of residency is usually surgical, pediatric or general medical training. This year is then followed by three more years of clinical anesthesiology under the guardianship of senior anesthesiologists. At the end of residency the American Board of Anesthesiology examination is then taken and successful candidates become board-certified, licensed anesthesiologists.
Aspiring anesthesiologists are required to first complete a five-year medical school degree, which is then followed by a foundation program of two years in general training and an additional seven or eight years of specialist training. There is variation in the duration of studies. For instance, students who do not have a scientific background in their secondary education may be able to be admitted to a six-year medical training program that offers a one-year foundation program. Those with an undergraduate degree may be admitted to four-year medical school graduate entry programs.
Australia and New Zealand
Like any other country, a medical degree is first required. This may take between four and six years depending on whether a student enters as an undergraduate or a graduate. Upon successful completion of a medical degree, one year of internship is done and is complemented with an additional year or sometimes more of residency, before admission to a specialized program is possible. It then takes another five years to successfully finish training in anesthesiology.
In all countries, an aspiring anesthesiologist is required to have a degree in medicine. However, the post-M.D. residency duration varies widely from one country to the next and across continents. In Switzerland and Canada, a residency in anesthesiology takes five years, whereas in Denmark and Japan it takes six years. Anesthesiology residents in Brazil, on the other hand, have an anesthesiology training period of three years on average.
Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD.