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how to become an anesthesiologist

Medical School
After completing a four year bachelor’s degree, students then take four years of graduate education leading to a degree in medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.). After receiving a medical degree, students must complete four more years in an anesthesiology residency. Some residents take one more year of study or fellowship, in a specific area of anesthesiology such as critical care medicine, pain medicine, research or education.

There is one important decision you must make before deciding to become an anesthesiologist: Do you want to become a physician? Medical school is designed to give students the widest range of choices, rotating them through all the different areas of medicine. Some medical students find that they are drawn to anesthesiology because of its intense doctor patient relationships combined with cutting edge technology in a fast paced environment. Anesthesiologists’ training overlaps into internal medicine, critical care, obstetrics and pain medicine, while dealing with emergency cases, organ transplants and all types of surgeries.

There is a wealth of information available from the Association of American Medical Colleges www.aamc.org, including a complete listing of medical schools. Students considering enrollment in a medical school are often required to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), as part of their admission process.

Residency Program
After medical school, a physician choosing anesthesiology as his or her specialty completes a year of internship and then three years of residency. Physician training programs in the United States require four years of residency training for board certification eligibility in anesthesiology (usually one year of general medical, pediatric, or surgical training followed by three years of clinical anesthesiology training under the tutelage of experienced anesthesiologists, usually faculty at medical school hospitals.)

After residency, many anesthesiologists complete an additional fellowship year of subspecialty training in areas such as pain management, cardiac anesthesiology, pediatric anesthesiology, neuro-anesthesiology, obstetric anesthesiology or critical care medicine.

Following successful completion of a residency program in anesthesiology, residents are eligible to sit for the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) examination. Almost 75 percent of anesthesiologists are board certified, meaning they have passed the written and oral examinations. All anesthesiologists must be licensed to practice medicine in their state. Additional certification is available from the ABA in critical care and pain management.

Anesthesiologist Assistants
All AAs possess a pre-med background, a baccalaureate degree, and also complete a comprehensive didactic and clinical program at the graduate school level. AAs are trained extensively in the delivery and maintenance of quality anesthesia care as well as advanced patient monitoring techniques.

Upon completion of an accredited AA program, a student may become certified by passing the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants examination www.aa-nccaa.org. The examination is administered and scored by the National Board of Medical Examiners as part of services contracted to NCCAA. Performance information for test items and the overall exam are provided by NBME. NCCAA uses this data to set the passing score and provides notification of certification.