What is an anaesthetist?

Anaesthetists are medical doctors with at least five years of specialty training, in addition to medical school residency.

“A specialist anaesthetist is a fully qualified medical doctor who, after obtaining their medical degree, has spent at least two years working in the hospital system before completing a further five years of training in anaesthesia.” (The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, ANZCA)

Clinical anaesthesia is built on the knowledge of physiology (how the body works) and pharmacology (how medications work in the body). Anaesthetists have an extensive knowledge of
medicine and surgery and understanding of the basic sciences. They know how the body responds to anaesthesia and surgery, and how a patient’s health affects these responses.

In Australia and New Zealand, anaesthesia training is supervised and accredited by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA). The training to become a specialist anaesthetist is equal in length to that of other medical specialists, such as surgeons, and includes intensive assessments, both at the hospitals where trainees work, and by written and verbal examinations. Doctors in the training program are called registrars. When a registrar completes their training and passes all examinations, they are awarded a diploma of fellowship of ANZCA, become Fellows of the College and may use the initials FANZCA after their name. They can then practise as a specialist anaesthetist in Australia and New Zealand.

Anaesthetists are perioperative physicians trained in all forms of anaesthesia and are members of multidisciplinary teams providing healthcare to patients. They assess patients before their procedures and play an important role in caring for the patient before, during and after surgery. They also provide anaesthetic care for patients undergoing non-surgical procedures, particularly if the procedures are long, complex or painful.

Anaesthetists play a pivotal role in resuscitating acutely unwell patients, including trauma victims, and help to manage patients suffering from acute or chronic pain. They also provide pain relief for women during labour and delivery.

Throughout their practice, anaesthetists must continue to update their skills by regularly attending professional development sessions. Anaesthetists must participate in a continuing professional
development (CPD) program that complies with ANZCA’s CPD standard in order for them to practise.

Anaesthetists can choose to become members of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists. The ASA is a not-for-profit member-funded organisation dedicated to supporting, representing and educating anaesthetists to ensure the safest possible anaesthesia for the community. Find out more about ASA membership benefits here 

Each year in Australia, anaesthetists have a crucial involvement in almost four million operations.

Thanks to Australian anaesthetists, Australia is one of the safest countries in the world to undergo surgery.