Anesthesiologists are known for their stressful job — one that involves administering just the right amount of anesthesia to properly sedate a patient. But their ability to relieve pain quickly and efficiently gives them a satisfaction that makes the high pressure worth it, says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, professor of anesthesiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. (There’s also that six-figure salary.)
We spoke with Epstein to find out more about this in-demand profession.
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What does an anesthesiologist do?
“An anesthesiologist is a physician whose job is to protect patients from the dangers and pain associated with surgery, childbirth or other procedures,” says Epstein.
They’re typically working in an operating room, where their role is not only to put patients to sleep and wake them up, but closely monitor their vital signs throughout the entire procedure.
What schooling do you need?
The journey to becoming an anesthesiologist is a long one.
“You have to have a bachelor’s degree first, then go to medical school, and after medical school, you have to do a residency, which is a minimum of four years,” he explains, “so that’s basically 12 years after high school.”
And it doesn’t end there. Those who want to specialize in areas such as cardiovascular, obstetric, or pediatric anesthesia need to complete an additional one to two years of training.
What’s the typical salary?
The median annual salary for anesthesiologists was $269,600 in May 2016, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Is it hard to find employment?
“No,” says Epstein. “There’s a demand for well-trained anesthesiologists and that demand doesn’t seem to be going away.”
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 21 percent employment growth through 2024, during which an estimated 7,100 jobs will open up.
One of the best parts of the job is the intellectual stimulation. “Unlike a lot of fields of medicine, which are slow — in other words you give somebody a medication and tell them to come back in a month to see how they’re doing— anesthesiology is really a moment to moment specialty,” Epstein says.
“You’re doing things that affect patients very critically and very quickly, and there’s a lot of responsibility,” he continues.
But that’s part of what makes it so gratifying.“When you can take a woman that’s in labor and make it a pleasant pain free experience — that’s really a wonderful feeling.”
The biggest drawback of the profession reflects the major issue with the field of medicine as a whole. “It’s always a battle between what the politicians want to do and what physicians want to do,” he says.