Case study

Consultant in anaesthesia — Andrew Parsons

Andrew discusses how he moved from his medicine degree to hospital and the challenges he's faced along the way

How did you get your job as an anaesthetist?

Anaesthesia is a medical speciality, which means I had to first complete general medical training before speciality training. To be eligible to become a consultant, you need a certificate of specialist training, which typically entails seven years of training in medicine, plus two foundation years after graduating from university. There are usually two or three points where you must apply for jobs on the way, and most medical specialties have postgraduate exams as a prerequisite.

What's a typical working day like?

My work is mostly clinical but I also have days in the office and in meetings. I mostly spend time putting people to sleep for surgery in the operating theatre but I also work in the outpatients' clinic, where we assess patients for major surgery and try to improve their risk profile. Lots of anaesthetists work in intensive care units and some anaesthetists are specialists in pain management. My working day usually starts at 8am with a visit to see the patients I'll be looking after.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the fact that every day is different and contains a new challenge.

What are the challenges?

In my role I bear significant responsibility and have to cope with inadequacies in the NHS, especially with the lack of funding to improve the service. I work fairly long hours and have some weekend and night-time work included in my job, which can be quite tiring.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My medicine degree is clearly highly relevant as I couldn't be a consultant without it. Other pathways into working in operating theatre are through nursing, radiography and also operating department practitioners, with whom anaesthetists have very close working relationships.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role as a consultant hasn't significantly changed over the last few years but I have increasingly taken on more responsibility and more projects.

What's your advice to someone wanting to become an anaesthetist?

I think the biggest barrier to becoming an anaesthetist is getting into medical school in the first place. After that, it's a matter of hard work, being focused and taking every opportunity you can.

If you're trying to get into medicine it's well worth contacting an admissions tutor to see what sort of level you should be aiming at. I'm afraid the standard is high these days and you'll be expected to have done some extracurricular work experience. It might be worth trying to volunteer in healthcare, for example as a porter or healthcare assistant.

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