If you are having surgery, the surgeon is the star of the show, the one you remember best. Next are the nurses who cared for you before and after the procedure. The people who provide anesthesia are often forgotten, although they are important to the success of any operation. Here are four things you probably didn’t know about anesthesia departments.
Anesthesiology does far more than keep you unconscious during surgery.
During surgery, the surgeon and his or her assistants are completely focused on the procedure itself. Anesthesiology ensures the safety and well-being of the patient. He or she not only keeps the patient unconscious but also closely watches the vital signs continuously to make sure that critical life functions remain stable.
A second goal is to manage pain for the patient, both before and after the procedure. Surgery is traumatic for the body. The anesthesiologist may give you medication during surgery to give you pain relief for several hours afterward.
The anesthesiologist is only one of the providers in the department.
In rural and otherwise underserved areas where it may be hard to recruit physicians, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are often the ones providing anesthesia for patients. They work independently of physicians and have extensive specialty training beyond their degrees as a registered nurse.
In other departments, an anesthesiologist may oversee other professionals, including anesthesiologist assistants (AAs), anesthesia technicians (ATs), and technologists who keep the equipment functioning perfectly. These need to work together as a team, which requires excellent communication skills and a clear idea of what the other can and cannot do.
Anesthesiology isn’t just for operating rooms.
Anesthesiology does help patients “go to sleep” during surgery, but they may also cover outpatient procedures in which the patient needs to be deeply relaxed but conscious, or fully conscious but with just one part of their body numb and paralyzed temporarily. They may offer pain relief during labor and delivery.
Some are in outpatient offices, helping patients manage chronic pain. They may give injections into spines or joints in patients who don’t want to have or aren’t good candidates for surgery. They may also work in dental settings providing anesthesia and pain relief for dental procedures. In some hospitals, as much as 3o% of anesthesia is performed outside of surgery.
Anesthesiology performs key administrative roles in hospitals.
Anesthesiologists may be a key communications link between surgeons and nursing in the OR. They are called upon to provide education, to other departments, and to the public, about topics such as pain control. They need to have business and public relations skills in addition to their medical training.
The role of anesthesiology continues to grow and change as healthcare evolves. You can be assured that the professionals in the anesthesiology department have the education and the experience to keep you and your loved ones safe and their pain controlled as well as possible.