Anesthesiology: The Myths and Realities

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There was surgery long before there was anesthesiology. It was introduced late in the nineteenth century, surgery without pain was considered one of the greatest contribution to humanity of all time. Anesthesiology has undergone a large swing in desirability among residency candidates in recent years. Medical school students interact less with anesthesiologists during the preclinical years. Surgery is still mostly male dominated field of practice within medicine. The legacy of this discrimination is a continuous relative enrollment of women in anesthesiology. This is a credit to anesthesiology as it contains a great diversity of individuals and it typically one of the most diverse staffs within most medical schools and hospitals & represents a continuing opportunity for fellowship and collegiality.

Over the years I discovered some very common misconceptions about anesthesiologists. Many people assume that: we are not doctors, what we do is easy, we don’t establish rapport with our patients & if anything goes wrong, “it’s always anesthesiologist’s fault.” I realized that not even other physicians understand what we anesthesiologists do, they don’t realize that back there beyond the green drapes “behind the scenes”, there is a continuous process of monitoring consciousness, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and a whole host of other body processes through checking the patient diving under the drapes, the large monitoring machines & the IV lines…etc. Who do you think keep the patient alive while the surgeon is mucking around with the patient’s vital viscera leading to all kind of perilous disturbances to the patient’s vital signs? Who will decide what premedication, anesthetic drugs, type of anesthesia & resuscitation procedure match most patient’s heart defect, or lung disease, or neurologic abnormality? We are artists & experts of resuscitation: reviving paralyzed/dead patients; intubating those who can’t breathe; rehydrating the dehydrated; unparalyzing those previously paralyzed chemically for surgical purposes, by us; awakening the unconscious with thoughtful use of anesthetic drugs and gases; creating pain relief and antiemetic regimens for post-surgery; and assure that the vital organs function well enough to ensure survival after surgery.

In Israel, medical residents and the Finance Ministry signed an agreement to end the labor dispute that has brought Israel’s medical system to a crisis point last year 2011. According to the agreement, every resident will get a sum amount of money in two stages, and young resident doctors will get paid more for evening and night shifts. Residents who work on weekends will receive a weekly vacation day. Anesthesiologists in Israel, have very few opportunities for private practice outside of the public healthcare system and, thus, rely solely on their salary from their principal employer. The policy to encourage & attract medical
graduate to choose anesthesiology was by offering a loan of almost 130,000$ granted following a successful completion of residency training. As a resident anesthesiologist I work 50-60 hours a week. My Salary range between 1800-2300 $/month.

Considering these long hours of work, the social life will be very limited, but success & career can have it’s own price. There is no question that residency is very challenging; however, the journey is much easier if the program provides you with encouragement and support along the way, and can even be enjoyable if spent with people who you consider friends.

Author Bio: The author, Salma El Marjiya, is a resident Anesthesiologist at Haemek Medical Center at Afule, Israel.

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