How to become an anaesthetist

Five steps to qualify as an anaesthetist in Australia
Qualifying as an anaesthetist requires becoming a registered doctor, completing at least two years of residency, and then finishing a five-year combined specialist fellowship training program offered by FANZCA.

What is an anaesthetist?

An anaesthetist is a medical doctor who is specialised in assisting patients through the entirety of any anaesthetic administration.

This includes pre-screening the patient to determine any anticipated issues or challenges with anaesthetic, ensuring the safety of the patient whilst under anaesthetic and throughout surgery, and maximising patient outcomes upon awakening.

Australia and New Zealand are world leaders in anaesthesia safety due to the extensive training programs which are completed by specialists at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA).

Note: In other parts of the world, anaesthetists are nursing staff who assist anaesthesiologists, who are medical doctors. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, anaesthetists are all specialised medical doctors and the term anaesthesiologist may be used interchangeably.

How do I become an anaesthetist?

1. Become a doctor

Qualifying as a medical doctor at the University of Sydney takes around eight years from high school. This includes a three-year undergraduate degree, a four-year Doctor of Medicine, and a further one-year internship in a hospital, at which point you may apply for registration through the Medical Board of Australia.

For more details on this process, see this explainer.

2. Complete minimum two years of residency

Upon finishing the intern year and gaining medical registration, doctors are required to complete a residency in order to access specialised vocational training programs, which all have a minimum residency requirement.

For anaesthesia, the required amount of residency is a minimum of two years, however many people may choose to complete more while they wait to be accepted into the training program or if they enjoy the residency.

3. FANZCA Introductory and Basic Training

The fellowship of ANZCA (FANZCA) training program is the only means through which a medical practitioner in Australia or New Zealand can become a specialist anaesthetist. Your participation in the program is supervised by an existing Fellow.

Application for a fellowship is competitive and places are limited, so you may need to apply multiple times before gaining admission.

Unlike many other fellowships, you don’t need to secure a training position at a relevant health institution before applying. You can apply and be accepted to the ANZCA program, and then once you have received a training position, you can register with the college.

You can apply as a member of the college at any time for a small fee, and once in an accredited seat you may register as a trainee.

To complete the fellowship, the first stage is the Introductory and Basic Training which takes two years. To complete the training, you must pass the primary examination, a combination of written and oral modalities. 

Introductory and Basic Training focuses on becoming acquainted with anaesthesia administration and building patient communication skills.

4. FANZCA Advanced Training

The second stage of FANZCA is the Advanced Training. This program does not require a separate application to commence and will become available to you once you have completed the Introductory and Basic Training. Advanced Training takes two years to complete.

To complete the Advanced Training, you are required to pass the fellowship or secondary examinations, a combination of written and oral modalities.

Advanced Training focuses mostly on patient care whilst under and receiving anaesthesia, particularly those undergoing complex procedures or with comorbidities. It will also encourage more practice with distant supervision rather than close supervision to promote autonomy.

5. FANZCA Provisional Fellowship Training

The third and final stage of FANZCA is the Provisional Fellowship training. This requires a separate application to commence and completion of the fellowship examination. It will become available to you once you have completed the Advanced Training.

Provisional Fellowship Training takes one year to complete, bringing the duration of the entire training program to five years. Some subspecialities may require two years or consideration of overseas. 

The Provisional Fellowship Training focuses on developing maturity within the discipline and demonstrating skills in providing independent and high quality consultant work.

Upon completing the Provisional Fellowship Training, you will be invited to become a Fellow of the College and be qualified to work as an anaesthetist.

3 October 2023

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