Nature of the work
With over 6,000 consultants and other career
grade doctors working within anaesthesia across the UK, this
specialty usually forms the largest department in any hospital.
Anaesthetists come into contact with two thirds of all patients
admitted to UK hospitals, and they are increasingly being called
upon as perioperative physicians. Most anaesthetists’ work revolves
around operative procedures, but the role is varied, and they are
also involved in acute pain rounds, chronic pain clinics, intensive
care units and labour ward duties.
Working in anaesthesia
Although the anaesthetist’s major role is to
provide anaesthesia during surgery, only about 50 per cent of time
is spent in the operating theatre. The rest of their time is
divided among the following areas:
- Preparation of surgical patients.
- Post-operative pain relief.
- Obstetric units.
- Cardiac arrest teams.
- Intensive care units.
- Emergency departments.
- Chronic pain management.
- Acute pain teams.
- Psychiatry - for patients receiving electro-convulsive therapy
- Radiology and radio-therapy.
Anaesthetists may lead or manage
various departments, playing a major role in day surgery, operating
theatres, recovery units, critical care services, high dependency
units and resuscitation services. The specialty has a history of
diversification, and pain medicine is a much needed specialty which
has grown out of anaesthesia. Anaesthetists are also widely
involved in the teaching and training of medical students,
postgraduate doctors in training, nurses, midwives and
Common procedures and
Anaesthesia allows specialists to work in an
intensely practical way. Every patient has a needle inserted in
their vein, and in more complicated cases, arterial or central
venous lines are inserted. Airway management is also a key
component. This may involve face masks, laryngeal mask airways,
endotracheal intubations or tracheostomies. Common regional
anaesthetic techniques include epidural and spinal blocks. Nerve
and plexus blocks are also frequently performed.
Anaesthetists all learn the same core
competencies in their early training. Although the CCT in
anaesthesia does not have sub specialties, anaesthetists develop
interest and expertise in an area of their choice in the later
years of training. This might be in areas such as:
A career in critical care can be achieved as a
joint CCT, but this is not mandatory for consultant appointment
with an interest in this subject.
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