As physicians specializing in maintaining the appropriate balance of patient sedation and vital life functions during surgery and other procedures, anesthesiologists also use their skill to treat acute or chronic pain. Anesthesiologists require extensive schooling, and laying the appropriate foundation as early as high school may help win the marathon required for graduation. Once completed, however, the rugged path to anesthesiology can lead to a rewarding career with high dividends.
Writing for MomMD, Valerie M. Harrison notes that those contemplating a career in medicine should first clearly calculate the required skills, time commitment and rewards and pitfalls of becoming a doctor. Requirements for medical school include excellent grades, a strong commitment to help others and the willingness to set aside more than a decade to education. Anesthesiologists often work with patients who are critically ill or in significant pain. Compassion mixed with the ability to make quick but possibly life-altering treatment choices are part of the daily routine for many anesthesiologists. Doctors also must recognize that even extensive training and perfect decisions may not lead to the best outcome for patients.
MomMD notes that 99 percent of all students accepted into medical schools in the U.S. have a bachelor's degree. They also encourage high school students to research entrance requirements of the medical school they would like to attend before settling on an undergraduate program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists physics, biology, mathematics, English, chemistry and social sciences as required courses for acceptance to most medical schools. MomMD notes a growing trend in medical schools accepting "well-rounded" students when it comes to undergraduate programs, but a grade point average of 3.95 remains high on the list of requirements. Before applying to medical school, candidates must also pass the Medical College Admission Test. The MCAT includes sections on physical sciences, verbal reasoning, biological sciences and writing. MomMD advises taking the MCAT during your junior year in college.
Competition for medical school is stiff, and most students apply to "at least five and sometimes 10," according to MomMD. Once accepted, students traditionally spend the first half of the four-year program in the classroom, focusing on subjects like anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology and medical ethics. Students also learn how to take medical histories, examine patients and diagnose illness. They spend the next two years working directly with patients under the supervision of physicians in hospitals and clinics (clinical rotations), gaining experience in emergency medicine, surgery, obstetrics and other aspects of medical care.
After medical school comes "anesthesiology school" or medical internship and residency, the on-the-job training portion of medicine. All medical school graduates apply for residency programs through the National Resident Matching Program, and here again, competition is brutal. For instance, noting their anesthesiology residency program takes three years to complete, Stanford University of Medicine in California accepts only 23 applicants into each of their three levels (years) of residency, for a total of 69 anesthesiologist residents. Like most programs, they choose their residents based on grades, test scores, medical school attended, references from health-care professionals and interviews. Residents spend their time gaining experience as they continue working under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. Responsibility for patient care increases steadily during the three-year program.
- Photo Credit surgery image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from Fotolia.com