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Anesthetists versus anesthesiologist: What's the difference?

Before 2019 ends, many New Mexico residents will undergo various types of surgical procedures. Some operations will take place in outpatient settings while other, more complex surgeries require overnight or even days of observation and follow-up treatment. If you plan to have surgery or an urgent situation arises that prompts an on-the-spot decision to operate, it is critical that you understand the jobs of the members of your medical team.

In particular, it is important to understand the difference between an anesthetist and anesthesiologist. The main difference between the two has to do with the level of education as well as potential income. It is logical to assume that in certain situations you would want the most experienced support possible regarding anesthesia and other pain reduction assistance. As in all surgical situations, medical errors can have disastrous consequences.

Registered nurses are anesthetists

If you learn that an anesthetist will administer your epidural during childbirth, for instance, or general anesthesia drugs prior to surgery, you'll want to be aware that he or she is a registered nurse not a licensed medical doctor. Anesthetists often work in doctors' offices, outpatient surgery centers and hospitals. They may also simultaneously tend to numerous patients.

Anesthesiologists are doctors

A licensed medical doctor typically has a higher level of education than a registered nurse. Anesthesiologists are licensed physicians who specialize in providing pain relief during surgery. Many also work in intensive care units or provide pain relief support to people with chronic pain conditions. Your anesthesiologist works alongside your doctor and surgeon to meet your pain relief needs.

Long hours, demanding work

Both of these jobs require mental and physical endurance as anesthetists and anesthesiologists typically work long hours, often without rest. They also spend a lot of time on their feet, which can lead to extreme fatigue. Workplace fatigue places patients at risk for injury because tired care providers have a greater likelihood of committing errors.

One error can cause you serious injury

If an anesthetist or anesthesiologist makes a mistake or fails to follow protocol according to accepted safety standards, you might suffer because of his or her substandard care. An epidural error, for instance, can lead to permanent paralysis. Sadly, some anesthesia mistakes have proved fatal in the past. New Mexico law allows injured medical patients to seek full financial recovery for their losses in a civil court.

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