I had a site commentator ask this important question yesterday. Let me preface my response by saying that I don’t intend to compare physician anesthesiologists to nurse anesthetists in any capacity. We both have our respective roles in the team-based approach to perioperative care. My decision to pursue anesthesiology was made well before I knew many of the details regarding nurse anesthetists.
The process of becoming a physician is all about exposure and professional maturation. By completing the pre-med prerequisite courses in college and then *enduring* medical school, I gained an appreciation for a myriad of specialities and skill sets. I spent a large portion of medical school preoccupied with self-reflection and discovery – how did I want to steer my life? Where did I see myself in a year? Five years? Ten years? After all, not all physicians become anesthesiologists.
By rotating through my core rotations as a medical student, I gained a sincere appreciation for the multidisciplinary teamwork inherent to providing quality care. Talking to patients with neuropsychiatric disorders, presenting patients on general medicine wards, scrubbing in for ten hour long surgeries, practicing the finer points of a focused physical exam, studying for so many shelf exams, learning the advanced pharmacology and physiology associated with various subspecialities… ah I could go on and on. To this day, I rely on knowledge I gained on those rotations to help better care and understand my patients. Additionally, the “basic science” portion of med school was paramount in teaching me how to learn medicine, be it research, wrought memorization, or understanding complex concepts.
It just so happened that anesthesiology gave me a field where I could apply many of my academic interests and nurture a particular skill set rooted in acute care of the critically ill. My training in medical school and residency has pushed me beyond the scope of anesthesia and fostered my maturation as a pathophysiologist, pharmacologist, intensivist, and diagnostician. I aim to use these skills to go beyond the “propofol-pushing” anesthesia provider to fill the role of an academic intensivist with additional training handling complicated cardiothoracic patients. Being a physician will give me that opportunity.
I made the decision to become a physician first… and then an anesthesiologist.