Anaesthetists administer different forms of anaesthetics to make patients unaware and free of pain during and after surgical procedures. Anaesthetists may also specialize in intensive care or pain medicine. 

Anaesthetists consult patients to ascertain their history in respect of allergies, previous reactions to anaesthetics and current medication and then monitor patients throughout the medical procedure and their recovery from the anaesthetic. They also follow up on patients’ immediate post-operative recovery to establish whether the anaesthetic is causing any adverse side effects.

Anaesthetists assess patients’ medical status and how that might be affected by the anaesthetic; they also assess patients’ pain management requirements before surgical operations. They decide on the anaesthetic drugs and techniques to be used before, during and after an operation and discuss the anaesthetic process with patients. They administer local and general anaesthetics to patients. They provide pain relief for women in labour. They carefully observe and care for patients before, during and after operations and record details of all drugs administered.

Sometimes, anaesthetists are involved in the resuscitation of critically ill people, such as trauma victims. They can be involved in teaching medical staff and students about anaesthetics and some carry out research on new drugs and treatments.

Anaesthetists need to have medical, surgical and technical skills. They must have good communication and people skills in order to relate well to patients. They must also have crisis management skills, skills in analysing and interpreting information, and the ability to make decisions.

Anaesthetists need to know about: the human body and how it functions; the effects of anaesthetics and other drugs on the body, and how to treat allergic reactions; how to revive and resuscitate people; medical ethics and the law; and the operation of anaesthetic and monitoring equipment.

Anaesthetists often work under sterile operating theatre conditions and they are on their feet much of the time. They usually work long and irregular hours. They may work weekends and be on-call. Anaesthetists work in hospitals, dental surgeries, intensive care units, maternity units and hyperbaric (high pressure) chambers. They may travel overseas to attend conferences to keep up to date with knowledge in their field.

Anaesthetists usually work as part of a team. They interact with a variety of people, including other health professionals and patients. They are usually involved in the training of junior doctors and registrar anaesthetists. Anaesthetists may also work in acute and chronic pain management teams.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course.

Note: Competition to enter medical studies is stiff and there are usually many applicants with very high marks who would be given preference.

What to Study

Degree: MBChB degree:
Theoretical training: 5 years
Student internship: 1 year
Internship: 2 years
Community Service: 1 year at an approved medical faculty.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Registration as an Independent Medical Practitioner with the HPCSA will only be permitted once all the necessary criteria have been met.

Specialisation in Anaesthesiology

Post-graduate study for specialization as an anaesthetist to obtain the requisite MMed or FCP(SA) degree takes a further 4 years - UCT, UFS, UP, US, UKZN, Wits.

Before commencing post-graduate study for specialization as an anaesthetist, the candidate must: have their MBChB degree for at least 2 years and be registered as a medical doctor with the Interim Medical and Dental Council (IMDC) of South Africa for 1 year.

On successful completion of the examination to qualify as specialist, the candidate registers with the IMDC as anaesthetist.


  • state hospitals and clinics
  • private hospitals and clinics
  • private practice

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9300 Fax: (012) 328-5120

South African Society of Anaesthesiologists
Tel: (011) 933-9560 Fax: (011) 933-1843

Getting Started

  • useful experience includes working with the Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance or in hospitals
  • any other health-related work or work involving contact with other people can also be helpful
  • make an appointment with an anesthetist to discuss this career and if possible arrange to observe this work at first hand

Programmes by Study Institutions

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