Who are anaesthetists?
Anaesthetists are doctors who have a medical degree. In North America and some European countries, they are also referred to as ‘Anaesthesiologists.’ To become a specialist anaesthetist in New Zealand, an individual would have had to complete postgraduate training in anaesthesia. This requires a minimum time of 7 years after completion of medical school. Most anaesthetists in NZ would have trained with the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), which confers the postnominal ‘FANZCA’ to doctors who have completed the training programme. Anaesthetists with overseas qualifications are only allowed to practice here if the Medical Council of New Zealand deems their training equivalent to that provided by ANZCA. Further information may be viewed here.

What do they do?
Anaesthesia is derived from Greek for ‘loss of sensation’. In essence, this refers to the practice of administering medications either by injection (through a port into the vein) or by inhalation (breathing in) that produce a deep state of unconsciousness and block the feeling of pain. This allows surgical procedures to be undertaken without causing distress to the patient. Depending on the type of surgery/procedure and the patient’s underlying health, there are several types of anaesthesia that may be administered. This is further explained here.

The role of the anaesthetist, in one simple sentence, is to keep the patient alive and well while they are being operated on in a state of deep unconsciousness. They accompany the patient throughout the surgical procedure, monitoring various haemodynamic parameters in order to keep the patient safe. Anaesthetists also play essential roles in preparing a patient for surgery if they have other medical problems, pain management during and after surgery, and prevention/management of post-operative complications.