Having finished two weeks of anaesthesia, I am both mesmerised and enlightened by what anaesthesia as a specialty truly entails. I really enjoyed being attached to the anaesthetists, as they were both extremely friendly and eager to teach. I got the opportunity to assist in the insertion of laryngeal mask airways and insert a cannula (which was successful!) through which anaesthetic drugs were subsequently given.
I was also allowed to hold an oxygen face mask in place – through this, I learnt how important it is to form a proper seal with the mask to ensure adequate oxygen delivery to the patient. Parameters such as blood pressure, pulse rate and oxygen saturations need to be monitored continuously during the course of the surgery to ensure that the patient is not deteriorating. This not only requires a deep rooted understanding of normal physiology, but also an understanding of what is “normal” for each patient.
The wide spectrum of patients, from paediatric patients to geriatric patients with multiple co-existing conditions, presents a new challenge each time anaesthesia needs to be administered. For instance, in the case of children, airway management is more time sensitive and therefore intubation and airway access need to be established relatively quickly to prevent oxygen saturations decreasing too quickly.
Distracting children with conversation is also essential as this can affect their compliance with instructions given to them; for instance, keeping their arm still when a cannula is being inserted. The most adept anaesthetists I witnessed were both focused and amicable with patients in order to calm them before surgery.
It was also incredible to see the fluid transition from a conscious patient who is conversing normally to a patient who is sedated, unconscious and primarily dependent on airway support. The importance of managing patients post-operatively was also something I was not fully cognisant of before – complaints such as post-operative pain, nausea and vomiting are fairly common amongst patients and need to be managed mainly through medication. Talking with patients post surgery is also a good indicator of their level of consciousness.