Resident Vs. Attending Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiologists monitor patients during surgery.
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An anesthesiology resident and an attending anesthesiologist represent professionals at two different places on the career spectrum. A resident is still in training, learning the skills and expertise necessary to be an anesthesiologist, while an attending anesthesiologist has already completed a residency and the necessary training to practice in the field.

Anesthesiology Basics

    Anesthesiologists are physicians who administer medications and other treatments that allow patients to undergo certain procedures, including surgeries. Anesthesiology is a broad field that requires knowledge of a wide range of types of surgery and medical conditions. Anesthesiologists ensure that patients endure procedures in a manner that is safe and as comfortable as possible. They must be knowledgeable about a patient's condition and medical history and the planned procedure. They also provide pain medication, particularly following surgery.


    Anesthesiology residents have already earned their medical degree and are undergoing intensive training in anesthesiology to become specialists in their chosen field. A residency is a required step in the transition from student to practicing physician. The residency is on-the-job clinical training in which prospective anesthesiologists actively care for patients under the supervision of licensed anesthesiologists. The residency starts with an internship year, which is in general medicine or surgery, and then focuses exclusively on anesthesiology for the remaining three years.

Attending Anesthesiologist Clinical Duties

    An attending anesthesiologist is a practicing anesthesiologist who attends to the anesthesiology-related care of patients in a medical facility, such as a hospital or outpatient surgery facility. The attending anesthesiologist works with other physicians involved, such as a surgeon, to collaborate on the patient's care. Anesthesiologists spend many hours in surgery, handling the anesthesia for the patient and monitoring their condition. A physician's assistant or nurse may provide support during surgery, but the attending anesthesiologist has the ultimate responsibility for the treatment used on the patient.


    Attending anesthesiologists and other physicians in academic medical centers frequently have responsibilities working with both medical students and residents. In an anesthesiologist residency program, an attending anesthesiologist will serve as a mentor, providing guidance as residents gain increasing capabilities as physicians. Attending anesthesiologists supervise residents and direct them, providing them with duties and opportunities to grow. Anesthesiologists may choose to focus on a sub-specialty, such as critical care medicine, so an attending anesthesiologist with a specialty area would work particularly closely with residents interested in their specialty.

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