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Anaesthesia (and the exposure to Intensive Care) offers a unique opportunity to care for the 'whole' patient while managing them through their surgery, to facilitating the management of the sickest patients in the hospital (frequently when your colleagues in other specialties are no longer comfortable managing them). The responsibility is great, but so are the interactions with members of almost every hospital specialty, making it a fantastically 'social' career.
  • Attention to detail

  • Interested in physiology, pharmacology and physics.

  • Great practical skills

  • Works well under pressure and able to make quick decisions.

Every day of the week is different for an anaesthetist, starting around 8am with either an ITU ward round or down in pre-operative assessment followed by a full or half day surgical list, with additional time spent with ward work, administration, teaching and the extent of intensive care work depending on the individual. Obstetrics and pain management clinics may also feature in an anaesthetist's week.
  • Get to speak to patients just before their operation, helping them relax and feel settled and seeing them through a complex operation.

  • Huge variety of patients and techniques used.

  • Using your understanding of physiology and pharmacology to adjust your technique to your patient with the desired effect is rewarding.

  • Seeing immediate results from your actions.


  • Scared patients can be a challenge to manage.

  • Occasional difficulty working with members of the surgical team.

  • Equipment issues are very frustrating.

  • Dealing with some of the sickest patients and relatives can be emotionally draining.

Anaesthetics cartoon doctor
Anaesthetics speciality career cartoon
  • In 1846, a dentist publicly demonstrated that ether, a colourless liquid that vaporizes quickly, would put patients to sleep during surgery. The practice began to spread. Doctors and dentists soaked a sponge or a cloth with ether and had patients breathe in the fumes through an inhaler. The fumes knocked the person out, but there was no way to control the amount inhaled. If patients inhaled too little, they could wake up during surgery and flail about in pain; if they inhaled too much, they might never wake. To make matters worse, ether is highly flammable, and a spark in the operating room could cause a dangerous explosion.

  • When Nitrous Oxide was first discovered in 1772 people initially thought the gas was lethal, even in small doses, like some other nitrogen oxides. However, in 1799, British chemist and inventor Humphry Davy decided to find out by experimenting on himself. To his astonishment he found that nitrous oxide made him laugh, so he nicknamed it laughing gas.

  • Louis Armstrong the famous American jazz trumpeter/singer was admitted to hospital in 1969 and during his admission required an emergency tracheostomy. His doctor was trying to avoid the procedure concerned it would alter his voice, in the end he had to perform it which helped save Louis' life and his voice remained unchanged.



Salary                         3
Competitive                3
Variety in Work           4
Work Life Balance      5
NHS Medical Careers
Royal College of Anaesthetists
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