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Anaesthetists administer different forms of anaesthetics to make patients unaware and free of pain during and after surgical procedures. Anaesthetists may also specialize in intensive care or pain medicine.

Anaesthetists consult patients to ascertain their history in respect of allergies, previous reactions to anaesthetics and current medication and then monitor patients throughout the medical procedure and their recovery from the anaesthetic. They also follow up on patients' immediate post-operative recovery to establish whether the anaesthetic is causing any adverse side effects.

Anaesthetists assess patients' medical status and how that might be affected by the anaesthetic; they also assess patients' pain management requirements before surgical operations. They decide on the anaesthetic drugs and techniques to be used before, during and after an operation and discuss the anaesthetic process with patients. They administer local and general anaesthetics to patients. They provide pain relief for women in labour. They carefully observe and care for patients before, during and after operations and record details of all drugs administered.

Sometimes, anaesthetists are involved in the resuscitation of critically ill people, such as trauma victims. They can be involved in teaching medical staff and students about anaesthetics and some carry out research on new drugs and treatments.

Anaesthetists need to have medical, surgical and technical skills. They must have good communication and people skills in order to relate well to patients. They must also have crisis management skills, skills in analysing and interpreting information, and the ability to make decisions.

Anaesthetists need to know about: the human body and how it functions; the effects of anaesthetics and other drugs on the body, and how to treat allergic reactions; how to revive and resuscitate people; medical ethics and the law; and the operation of anaesthetic and monitoring equipment.

Anaesthetists often work under sterile operating theatre conditions and they are on their feet much of the time. They usually work long and irregular hours. They may work weekends and be on-call. Anaesthetists work in hospitals, dental surgeries, intensive care units, maternity units and hyperbaric (high pressure) chambers. They may travel overseas to attend conferences to keep up to date with knowledge in their field.

Anaesthetists usually work as part of a team. They interact with a variety of people, including other health professionals and patients. They are usually involved in the training of junior doctors and registrar anaesthetists. Anaesthetists may also work in acute and chronic pain management teams.

Satisfying Aspects
- satisfaction of a job efficiently done once a patient has successfully undergone surgery
- being the one to ensure the patient is alive but free of pain during an operation
- working on new methods of controlling pain

Demanding aspects
- unsociable hours
- maintaining the critical balance of a patient during surgery can be stressful, particularly if the patient has complicating conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems
- coping when a patient dies

An anaesthetist should:
- have a genuine concern for the health and well-being of others
- have the ability to make quick decisions and having good judgement under pressure
- have the ability to pay attention to detail
- be well-organized and practical
- have good hand-eye coordination
- have awareness and understanding of other cultures
- have above average intelligence
- have ability to reassure anxious patients and inspire confidence
- be very responsible and emotionally stable
- be able to withstand pressured situations
- have excellent health and stamina to cope with long hours

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Note: Competition to enter medical studies is stiff and there are usually many applicants with very high marks who would be given preference.

Degree: MBChB degree:
Theoretical training: 5 years;
Student internship: 1 year;
Practical work at a hospital: 1 year (also known as the house doctor year).

Post-graduate study for specialization as an anaesthetist to obtain the requisite MMed or FCP(SA) degree takes a further 4 years - UCT, UFS, UP, US, UKZN, Wits.

Before commencing post-graduate study for specialization as an anaesthetist, the candidate must: have their MBChB degree for at least 2 years and be registered as a medical doctor with the Interim Medical and Dental Council (IMDC) of South Africa for 1 year.

On successful completion of the examination to qualify as specialist, the candidate registers with the IMDC as anaesthetist.

- State hospitals
- Clinics
- Private practice

South African Society of Anaesthesiologists
Tel: (011) 933-9560 Fax: (011) 933-1843

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9300 Fax: (012) 328-5120