Who Says You Can’t Become an Anaesthesiologist?

A recent article on NYSORA.com, 5 Reasons You Should NOT Become an Anaesthesiologist, suggests that anaesthesia-hopefuls need five – maybe even six – personality traits to become an anaesthesiologist. While NYSORA is a fantastic institution – and I use and recommend their resources all the time for regional anaesthesia – I disagree with much of this article.

Whether intentional or not, the article reeks exclusivism, which is something I think medicine can do without. I don’t need a superhero complex.

You don’t need to be an anaesthesiologist, before you are an anaesthesiologist. 

Next month will be my three year anniversary in anaesthesia, and as much as there are prominent personality types in the field (can you say A-TYPE?), there is also great variety. I see it in the way every anaesthesiologist has their own way of doing the same things (and then their trainees have to try remember which consultants want what, welp). 

The traits mentioned in NYSORA’s article are indeed very important in our field. My disagreement lies with suggesting that a doctor without it, should not train to become an anaesthesiologist. Training exists precisely to teach: not just academics and clinical skills, but how to BECOME an anaesthesiologist. To shape us into the next generation of empathic, innovative, and competent practitioners. The real condition here is teachability, and willingness to practise. 

Reading this article actually made me realise how far I’ve come, and how much we can teach. Have a look at the traits in the article. A cool head? I was an absolute mess on my first solo overnight call. Any trainee SHOULD be nervous their first time going solo. These days, I am much calmer in crises. 

Multitasking is a misnomer, as much research has shown. Anaesthesia requires attention and situational awareness, and this can be learned. 

I am not a natural at procedural skills, and there is a reason I am not a surgeon. That said, every procedure can be practised and improved upon – and I have! 

People skills and leadership skills are so subjective, that it is impossible to expect someone to accurately judge their own. 

As for resilience – resilience is a word for an entire post of its own. 

TL;DR: essential traits can be learned, and should be taught.

While some people are certainly more “natural” at their professions, success depends on a willingness to learn. And rather than sowing doubt in a hopeful trainee’s mind, we would be better off teaching them how to improve identified traits. 

We have a tendency to want sure answers: will I make it in this field? How can I know I’ll love it? The truth is, you can never say for sure. And guess what? A trainee who starts in anaesthesiology, and decides they cannot – or no longer want to – learn the skills required, CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE THEIR MIND! We are not stuck.

Hang in there, friends, and always be teachable.

1 Comment

  1. Coalmine Hospital Comics says:

    Good post, and definitely true to my experience too. Training is about becoming.

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