What are the Different Types of Anesthesiology Residency Programs?

Jeany Miller

Anesthesiologists often administer medication, provide surgical care and offer pain management techniques to patients. These careers usually require rigorous educational programs, including graduation from accredited schools of medicine. Upon graduation, students must often enter anesthesiology residency programs, where they work with trained professionals in a field of their choice. Residency programs often provide many areas of specialization, including pediatrics, cardiac care, pain management, critical care and obstetrics. Each of these specialties requires knowledge of different patient care techniques, and in some instances, anesthesiologists must also have the capabilities to operate life-saving machines or conduct anatomical examinations.

Residency is an important part of training for physicians that lasts from three to seven years.
Residency is an important part of training for physicians that lasts from three to seven years.

An anesthesiology doctor usually provides surgical care or pain relief to patients. Routine responsibilities may include examining patients to determine the type of anesthetic needed, administering local, intravenous or spinal medication and maintaining the patient’s vital functions, such as heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Monitoring often occurs throughout surgery, and anesthesiologists are thus likely to confer with other physicians and surgeons to determine the condition of patients before, during and after sedation.

Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.
Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.

Before beginning an anesthesiology career, candidates must first complete the necessary educational requirements. A four-year pre-medical program from an accredited college or university is likely followed by attendance at a school of medicine. From there, candidates often spend four years or more in residency at anesthesiology schools. During residency, anesthesiologists often work toward obtaining local or national certification. Anesthesiology residency programs may vary considerably, depending on one’s chosen area of study.

Pediatric anesthesiology is a subspecialty devoted to the pre-, intra- and post-operative anesthetic care of pediatric patients. Neonates, infants, children and adolescents usually fall into the pediatric category. Clinical training for such anesthesiologist programs is often spent caring for patients in the operating room, intensive care units or other anesthetizing locations. Residents are likely to gain experience in administering anesthesia for both inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures. They may also conduct non-operative procedures outside of operating rooms, including advanced life support for pediatric patients.

Another area of specialty training may include cardiovascular anesthesiology. Patients undergoing cardiothoracic and major vascular surgery are often older in age and may have complex co-morbidities. Trainees in such anesthesiology residency programs are thus likely to acquire knowledge of those cases and also experience the physiologic changes that occur during cardiac surgery. The breadth of cardiovascular medicine may allow anesthesiologists to further narrow their fields of specialty to private settings, echocardiography or laboratory-based research projects. Additional opportunities related to cardiovascular anesthesiology practice may include the physiology of platelets, resuscitation and monitoring and thoracic analgesia.

In some instances, the anesthesiologist serves as a pain management consultant. Anesthesiology residency programs in this field often focus on outpatient pain evaluation, diagnosis and therapy. Nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulators and radio frequency ablation are some of the modalities anesthesiologists may use to treat patients with chronic pain. Although the anesthesiologist is not the primary care physician in this environment, the residency program may also instruct students to perform assessments and develop lasting patient and provider relationships.

People with life-threatening injuries or conditions, such as from surgeries, accidents or infections, require critical care. Such care often involves close and constant attention from a team of specialty-trained health professionals. The anesthesiologist is likely to be part of that team, and residency programs in this area often focus on acute and long-term care of critically ill patients with multiple organ system complications. These residencies are usually in the intensive care unit of a hospital, thus giving anesthesiologists clinical experience in airway maintenance and management, mechanical ventilation and devices that supply supplemental oxygen. Residents may also gain knowledge of placement and management of arterial catheters, emergency and therapeutic placement of pacemakers and pharmacologic and mechanical support of circulation.

Pregnant women often have anatomic changes that greatly affect their pain management. Anesthesiology residency programs in obstetrics often study those changes and concentrate on proper administration of analgesics and anesthetics during labor. Clinical practices in such programs may look at low-dose local anesthetic-opioid combinations, administration of walking epidurals and new developments in combined spinal-epidural techniques. Residency programs are also likely to instruct anesthetic management for normal and high-risk pregnancies.

Anesthesiologists typically administer medication and help patients with pain management following surgery.
Anesthesiologists typically administer medication and help patients with pain management following surgery.

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