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Dr Jan Steiner, Anaesthetist
Medical & Healthcare

Dr Jan Steiner, Anaesthetist

Jan works as an Anaesthetist in Letterkenny General Hospital. Originally from Germany, Jan completed his medical training as a general Doctor (MD) and went on to specialise as an Anaesthetist.

Ask me your
first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

There unfortunately wasn't one "Big Decision"! Anyway, although I started and enjoyed carpentry I feared that it would ultimately bore me.

I thought that medicine will always remain interesting and challenging. And, yes, I did think that morally and idealistically I would always be able to look into the mirror and say "You're at least trying to do a good thing and help"!

My main struggle actually was between music and medicine. However, I decided that I was too conservative and not good/crazy/committed enough to become a full-time musician.

So one big decision was that I could be a doctor and still do music but without worrying where the money would come from vs being a musician with no money who cannot do medicine as a hobby!

Certainly it was convincing that being a doctor would provide a safe and reasonably (in Germany) good income and would probably always provide me with a job. A job that's still socially well accepted. I guess that has also played a role.

Generally what also convinced me was that I enjoyed working on patients and got feedback that I was good in doing that!

But to make it even more confusing and non-stringent, I still regularly wonder whether I made the right choice and certainly on regular intervals I reflect on this. And the answer is not always a straight forward "Yes, I did the right thing". Being a doctor working in hospital unfortunately can be pretty asocial and that is something I didn't fully appreciate at the start.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

My parents (my father was a paediatric GP, and my mother a paediatric nurse in the Civil service), friends at university, senior colleagues at work.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I applied with CV and got in when a sudden vacancy occurred.

Describe a typical day?

8am: theoretical training session.

9am: preparing for 1st patient, i.e. preparing drugs, checking machines.

9am -17pm: perioperative anaesthetic care of patients in theatre.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Main tasks are to deliver best patient care, i.e. a calm and informed patient preOP, a stable patient intraOP and an awake, pain-free/-controlled, stable patient postOP.

Outside theatre my main tasks are stabilizing critically ill patients which mainly involves managing airway & breathing issues.

What are the main challenges?

Passing exams and advancing academically is the main challenge, i.e. ongoing training and assessment.

What's cool?

I am continuously challenged every day in my job which is great.

What's not so cool?

The long working hours - some weeks you can work as much as 100 hours although the average is nearer to 60 hours per week.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Particular skills are all required anaesthetic skills. Personal skills would/could be honesty, courage, organisational skill, discipline and visions.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

Specific subjects that I "specialised" in were German & Biology. None of the subjects chosen in school influenced my career path.

What is your education to date?

Medical Doctor with MD, Anaesthetic Registrar

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

Aside from my medical training, I learned professional typing in a voluntary course at school. My computer skills were both self-taught and taught in courses, workshops, from friends.

Very relevant for my medical training were all the side-jobs I did working in different hospitals. Fifteen months spent with the Civil Service in a Paediatric hospital ward working as nursing-aid were particularly helpful in terms of "knowing" how a sick child looks and behaves like. Any practical "front-work" was helpful: I worked as medical student in a Paediatric A&E taking history of all patients coming in and then presented these cases to "real" Paediatric doctors.

I also worked on a Neurological ward as medical student. I believe that it would be very helpful for every doctor when at some stage in their career they would work as a nurse or nursing aid. You get a different feeling for "team-work", communication, patient, etc.

I gave training courses to student nurses which was also very helpful both for improving your presentation skills and realising that you haven't really understood and grasped a topic unless you can explain it clearly!

Ultimately the most important thing in work (and generally) life are and were the people that stood out either from personal and/or professional point of view. I admired my senior Anaesthetic Registrar in Germany for example as he could always explain everything very clearly, was always up to date and always was friendly and helpful. That was and is the basis and backbone of my Anaesthetic training!

Luckily I have always met one or two people who influenced me in that way. I think it is important to seek these influencing people, listen to them and learn from them.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

  • Graduation from university with award.
  • Dissertation with award. 
  • Passing my Primary Exam.  
  • Helping to improve the organisational structure of the department and adding to the "good atmosphere" within department.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

I am organised, ambitious, honest, courageous, interested in and curious about everything.

What is your dream job?

Musician, that is being a composer and producer, not so much a live performer.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Being an Anaethetist is a well paid job providing a very good income.  However with the long working hours it can be difficult to balance work, training and family life, never mind hobbies!

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Try and get as much practical experience before entering the job as possible.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

  1. Knowledge and experience. 
  2. Coolness.
  3. Being critical about everything

What is your favourite music?

Anything apart from Heavy Metal, Gothic, Gabba and Hardcore

What is your favourite film?

Lord of the Rings

What is your pet hate at work?

People not being able to make decisions

What is your star sign?


Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

Yes, I would like to get an Anaesthetic Fellowship, Pain Diploma, MBA Health Care Management and maybe a diploma in computer networking & database control.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

A&E experience, ambulance service, surgical experience, intensive care.

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