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Health careers with a difference: anaesthetists

There’s a whole lot more to a career in medicine than being a doctor. There are actually loads of different jobs where you can use your skills and know-how to help patients live healthier, happier lives.

Whether it’s the phlebotomists taking blood samples to help diagnose illnesses, or the sonographers who carry out ultrasounds, these are the people who make our hospitals and medical practices go round!  

We’re taking a look at the various paths in healthcare and medicine, exploring the different jobs you could do, what skills and talents are required, and how to get started in the career.

In this guide we will talk you through the role of an anaesthetist. We’ll explain what their job involves on a day-to-day basis and what skills they need, as well as how to become an anaesthetist. 

What does an an anaesthetist do? 

The word “anaesthesia” comes from the Greek word for ‘without feeling’, which gives you a good idea of what an anaesthetist does.

Anaesthetists are doctors who give patients anaesthetics during operations and medical procedures. These drugs and gasses lead to loss of sensation, so patients don’t feel any pain. They make sure patients are safe and comfortable before and during surgery – and they also closely monitor them afterwards to make sure they recover well. 

Watch this video to see Nish explain what anaesthetists do:

An anaesthetist most often works in the operating theatre, helping patients who are having surgery. But they have other duties too. These could include:

  • Resuscitate and stabilise patients in the accident and emergency department
  • Relieve pain during childbirth
  • Manage cancer pain
  • Help transport very ill or injured patients
  • Help with dental surgery

Anaesthetists work alongside other healthcare professionals to make sure patients are getting the best treatment. 

Is being an anaesthetist right for me?

If you’re have excellent abilities in science and you’d like to have a job where you can help people, a career as an anaesthetist could be for you. It’s often a fast-paced and challenging role where you’ll have to think on your feet.

Anaesthetist team
Anaesthetists should be able to work well in a team

To be a successful anaesthetist, you should have:

  • Interest in medicine, anatomy and physiology
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Ability to make quick decisions
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Good communication skills for speaking with patients and their families
  • Ability to work well in a team as well as on your own
  • Commitment to caring for people
  • Interest in continuing to learn about the specialist field 

Sounds good. So tell me how to become an anaesthetist. 

To become an anaesthetist, you must complete:

  • five-year degree in medicine
  • two-year foundation programme of general training
  • specialist training, which lasts between seven and eight years.

In order to do a medicine degree, you’ll typically need at least five GCSEs including English, maths and science, as well as three A-levels at grades AAB in subjects including biology, chemistry, and either physics or maths.

It’s also recommended that you do work experience in order to get a place at university – this could include a healthcare assistant role, a shadowing placement at a GP surgery, or volunteering in a hospital. 

What do anaesthetists earn? 

During the speciality training to become an anaesthetist, the starting salary is £30,300. When you’re fully qualified you could earn up to £70,000.

If you think a career in as an anaesthetist might be for you, check out our Medicine & Healthcare Career Zone.

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