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An anesthesiologist is a board-certified physician specialist who administers anesthesia and manages pain before, during and after surgery. They also evaluate a patient’s readiness for a procedure and perform a pre-surgical interview and exam to ensure the proper technique and medication for anesthesia. To become an anesthesiologist, you will need to complete an undergraduate degree and graduate from medical school. After medical school, there are additional residency, fellowship and training requirements before you can sit for any of the certification examinations. In total, physician anesthesiologists complete 12 to 14 years of post-graduate training and a minimum of 12,000 to 16,000 hours of clinical training before they independently practice. Let’s take a look at what certificates are required to be an anesthesiologist and the requirements for earning each of these certifications.

Board of Certification in Anesthesiology

The American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS) offers the Board of Certification in Anesthesiology. In order for a physician to sit for this certification exam, they must have met minimum training and clinical practice requirements. These requirements include graduation from medical school and holding an unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States or Canada.

Before a doctor can sit for the exam, there are additional requirements. A physician must complete a PGY-1 program or an accredited internship in anesthesiology. They must also complete an accredited anesthesiology residency approved by the ACGME or AQA organizations. Applicants must also submit 25 anesthesia case reports to the certification board with their application to sit for the exam. These redacted case reports must be within 12 months of the application date. Along with the application, physicians must include a curriculum vitae with their educational and work experiences listed in chronological order. Finally, applications need to include two recommendation letters from physicians already certified by the ABPS, ABMS, AOA or CFPC organizations.

The Board of Certification in Anesthesiology certificate involves a four-hour test with 200 multiple choice questions. After passing this written test, candidates must take an oral exam. The certificate from the ABPS lasts for eight years. To recertify, an anesthesiologist needs to complete 50 hours of continuing education each year, and 25 of those hours must be in anesthesiology. A self-assessment must be completed. The ABPS also has its own continuing medication requirements separate from the 50 hours of learning issued by other organizations.

American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA)

Another certificate option for physicians who want to become an anesthesiologist is the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). This certificate involves taking a series of three separate exams at different times after completing medical school and beginning a residency.

The first exam for the ABA certificate is the basic exam. It covers the basics of anatomy, anesthesia equipment and monitoring. Candidates usually take it at the end of their CA-1 year.

The second exam in the ABA series is the advanced exam. Candidates take it after completing their anesthesiology residency. It covers topics including sub-clinical care, advanced clinical issues and anesthesiology practice.

To complete an ABA certificate, candidates must pass the third and final exam, which is called the applied exam. It has two parts and is conducted in person in Raleigh, NC. The first portion of the exam is a standardized oral exam. The second part, which is taken immediately after the first part, is the objective structured clinical exam. It takes place in a clinical environment.

The certification from ABA lasts for 10 years. To recertify, an anesthesiologist needs to earn 125 credit hours of continuing medical education by the end of their fifth year and another 125 by their tenth year. They must also complete a self-assessment and a medical ethics course.

Sub-Specialty Certifications in Anesthesiology

After earning the ABPS or ABA certification in anesthesiology, you could earn an additional certificate in a subspecialty of this field. The sub-specialty certificates, issued by the ABA, include critical care medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, pediatric anesthesiology, pain medicine, sleep medicine and neuro-critical care medicine. Each of these sub-specialty certifications requires another one to two years of clinical training and passing a written certification exam. All of these certification exams feature multiple-choice questions. Re-certification in a subspecialty of anesthesiology requires the completion of 50 credit hours of continuing medical education every five years. The sub-specialty certifications and re-certifications also last for 10 years.

Becoming a board-certified anesthesiologist allows you to provide critical care to patients in need of pain management. This specialty of medicine is in high demand due to the aging American population, high prevalence of chronic diseases that require surgical interventions and the increase in surgical technology and techniques. Earning a certification as an anesthesiologist will also help you build your professional reputation, provide exemplary patient care and maintaining these certifications allows you to stay up-to-date in your field of practice.

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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?