Top of his game - by default
PROFESSOR Arthur Rantloane is head of department of anaesthesiology at the University of Pretoria and is chief specialist in anaesthesia at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
Rantloane, who has been working in anaesthesiology for the past 14 years, entered the field by accident.
"I went to hospital to specialise in paediatrics. When I reported for duty there was some administrative problem. I was told to find something to do for a month, so I found a job in the anaesthetic department, started that day and have been here ever since," laughed Rantloane.
He said an anaesthetist's salary varied, depending on whether he or she were in the public or private sector. In the public sector it varied from R280000 to R635000 a year. In the private sector an anaesthetist could expect to earn a minimum of R900000 a year .
"We facilitate surgical operations on people," Randloane said. "We ensure the person is well prepared for the surgery. This means we have to check if they have any other problems, such as diabetes that will impact our management of the surgery.
"When they are ready for surgery we deal with the anxiety. People come in and are scared, so we try and make them as comfortable as possible before surgery.
"We also deal with the pain of the operation, which means we monitor the pain from the time they enter anaesthetic to after the surgery is complete and they are healing.
"We deal with the pain management in a way that will help the patient heal faster and better. For some operations we have to take over their breathing, support their heart and control other bodily functions.
"For this we hook them up to various machines and, ultimately, look after the organ functions of the patient while under anaesthesia. We ensure the patient is comfortable and pain free.
"We literally take over living for the patient and, being able to do that over and over again in a similar fashion, is very rewarding. You appreciate what a person is capable of and this is the thing that keeps me going.
"There is a lot of satisfaction in saving people who were at death's door. You also get to meet a variety of people from different specialities.
"The cons are that it is a very high-stress job because we take over the survival functions for patients."
He said there was an extremely small margin for error in the job.
To become an anaesthetist one needs to have a basic medical degree along with practical experience. Thereafter one needs to complete a highly intensive four-year academic training programme to become a specialist in anaesthetics.
"You must have people skills and want to interact with people, and be an extrovert, relaxed, thick-skinned and able to move on after a patient has died.
"Skills you will need include those of a good medical practitioner, numeric skills, the ability to interpret data, integrated skills such as anatomy and physiology, good maths and good visual and auditory skills".
Rantloane works Monday to Friday, from 7am to 5pm.
"I start my day with a meeting at 7am in the morning. Then I usually go to the operating theatre for my morning session. I come back to my office at 1pm and do admin, have meetings and also usually prepare for any coming congress meetings.
"The best aspect about the job is that we can keep generating good doctors and churning out specialists in this field. The worst aspect about the job is the remuneration. Sometimes you feel unappreciated, but I am here by choice, so I try not to worry about it too much."
Giving advice to youngsters trying to decide what career path to follow, he said: "I think it's useful to take a gap year to find yourself. Not everyone has to be a doctor or a teacher. There are many different careers available today." - SA Career Focus