Shadowing a Doctor

March 23, 2016


An anaesthetist is a qualified doctor who specialises in providing anaesthetics or drugs that cause loss of sensation to patients who need to undergo a surgical procedure. 

Anaesthesiology a highly complex field, as you hold the patient’s life in your hands while they are under anaesthesia. Anaesthetists undergo several years of specialist training before they can begin practising without supervision in the operating theatre.

Job description

The primary role of an anaesthetist is to care for the safety and welfare of patients before, during and after operations or during childbirth. Key duties include:

  • Explaining the risks or side effects of the surgery to patients before a procedure
  • Preparing patients for upcoming surgery
  • Administering the appropriate anaesthetics during the operation
  • Observing and monitoring patients during surgery and responding immediately to any adverse changes
  • Alleviating severe pain during childbirth
  • Making sure patients are safe, comfortable and pain-free after an operation.

Anaesthetists work long hours including nights and weekends. They may be on call anytime that surgery is scheduled or in case of emergency surgery, and usually work in close collaboration with other healthcare professionals to provide a complete treatment plan for patients in their care.
In this role, you could work in a variety of settings including hospitals, consulting rooms and special units such as the emergency and accident unit.

Education and training

It could take about up to 15 years from the day you join medical school before you are fully qualified to work in this field. First, you’ll need to complete a five-year degree in medicine; once you have that, you’ll need to complete a two-year foundation programme. As part of this program, you will work in a variety of clinical settings ranging from mental health to acute care.

Specialist training is the next step; this could take seven or eight years, depending on the route you decide to take. The Australian And New Zealand College Of Anaesthetics is or ANZCA is responsible for the training, examination and specialist accreditation of anaesthetists and pain medicine specialists in Australia.

Essential traits

Anaesthesiology is not a role for everybody. It takes very particular skills and characteristics to be able to work as an anaesthetist. Anaesthetists often deal with emergency situations, so you will need to be able to make quick decisions that could save patients’ lives. For this you need to have:

  • Strong analytical and practical skills that are essential for carrying out patient examinations and performing clinical procedures
  • The ability to work under pressure
  • Excellent communication skills to be able to explain choices and possible side effects to patients
  • Outstanding leadership skills
  • Capacity to work independently
  • The ability to work as part of the operating room team
  • Commitment to caring for others
  • Willingness to participate in continuing education to keep your skills updated

Above all, you must be committed to always working to high professional standards; this is especially important as you will be the person solely responsible for keeping the patient alive while they are under the effects of anaesthesia.


Chat with us on Facebook or Twitter, or email

Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.