An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the administration of anesthesia and related issues. Anesthesiologists most famously work in the operating room, keeping patients unconscious and monitoring their vital signs during surgery, but these professionals can also be seen in other environments. For example, anesthesiologists can administer nerve blocks, epidurals, and other forms of pain management which are used outside the operating room.
Anesthesiologists have several responsibilities. They are involved in pain management, and any situation in which a patient must be unconscious for a procedure, using anesthetic agents to induce and maintain unconsciousness. These medical professionals also participate in life support, including monitoring vital signs, managing the patient's airway, and staging prompt interventions if necessary. Anesthesiologists are often treated as the patient's advocate in the operating room, keeping the patient stable during the procedure and informing the surgeon if the patient develops problems which could influence the procedure.
In the case of a surgery, the anesthesiologist meets with the patient before the procedure takes place to perform an interview and discuss the procedure with the patient. The anesthesiologist must determine whether or not the patient will be safe in surgery, and he or she will develop an anesthesia plan which is designed to keep the patient sedated and comfortable. Anesthesiology can include general anesthesia, in which the patient is totally unconscious, along with conscious sedation, regional anesthesia, and local anesthesia.
Postoperative pain management is also important for anesthesiologists, and these professionals also have to address concerns like awareness under anesthesia. Pain management is critical not only for quality of life, but also in healing, as patients who are not suffering from pain tend to heal more quickly. An anesthesiologist is also usually involved in the management of pain such as that associated with labor and delivery.
These care providers have to be very careful with the drugs they use. An anesthesiologist administers paralytic agents which prevent patients from breathing on their own, for example, along with drugs which can cause brain damage and severe medical complications if they are not administered properly. Anesthesiologists tend to have a very keen eye for detail and precision, and they are also extremely good at math and very calm under stress.
Anesthesia can be practiced by nurse anesthetists, anesthesia technicians, and anesthesia assistants. These care providers have various levels of training, and are sometimes able to act independently, while others must work under the supervision of a doctor. In all cases, the training includes extensive education in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and biology.