Who is that masked anesthesiologist that I just met? Can I trust them with my life?
In this post we will peel back some of the mystery of anesthesiologists: who they are, what they do, how they trained, and where you can get more trustworthy information about them.
Your anesthesiologist is the physician that meets with you prior to your surgery and discusses the plan for anesthesia. In some cases, the anesthesiologist may have called you the night before your surgery. You may have met them in a preoperative clinic visit. In other situations, you might meet the anesthesiologist the moment before your surgery, especially if it is an emergency procedure.
In the environment in which we work (private practice), surgeons choose to work with certain anesthesiologists in most instances. Some surgeons only work with one anesthesiologist everyday and others work with a group of anesthesiologists. In either case, the surgeon will likely be able to tell you which anesthesiologist or group they use. The bottom line is that you can ask your surgeon who your anesthesiologist will be for the procedure.
As above, things may change if you are having an urgent procedure. For instance, if you are in labor and go to the hospital on Friday at midnight, the anesthesiologist on duty that night for labor and delivery will take care of you. If you are in a car accident and need surgery, the anesthesiologist available for emergency surgeries will be present. It just depends on the situation. But hospitals typically contract with anesthesia groups or anesthesia departments to provide all types of anesthesia coverage (eg. obstetrics, emergency, scheduled cases).
If you are having surgery as an outpatient, meaning you will go to the hospital on the day of surgery, you have the best chance of knowing exactly who your anesthesiologist will be for the day.
Anesthesiologists are certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology (the ABA), which requires strict standards for certification. After completing 4 years of medical school and a 4 year residency specific for Anesthesiology, an anesthesiologist is “eligible” to begin Board Certification. The physician must then complete and pass a rigorous written exam. Once he/she has passed the written exam, your anesthesiologist must pass an oral exam that further tests their knowledge and judgement. It is only after completing this entire process and passing this oral exam that an anesthesiologist is “board certified”.
You can easily find out if your anesthesiologist is board certified by following the link to the ABA website here (scroll to bottom left corner). You can input your anesthesiologist’s name to check their status. Make sure to get the spelling of their name correct.
Most anesthesiologists consider it a privilege to take care of patients in what can be a stressful and vulnerable time. Just like your surgeon or any other physician that takes care of you, we have gone through rigorous training to reach a point where we can be in charge of your anesthesia. Though it seems like there is often little time to speak with your anesthesiologist prior to surgery, if you have any questions about your anesthesia plan or anesthesiologist please don’t be afraid to speak up. A board certified anesthesiologist will be more than happy to answer your questions and put your mind at ease.