That One Time I Cried

Posted: Nov 5, 2012
Views: 5719 - Comments: 10

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I’m about to drop a bombshell. I used to HATE anesthesia and surgery. Hated it. Those who know and work closely with me know that I am the first person to volunteer to run anesthesia on a gnarly surgery and revel in the sweating stressful moments spent with a talented surgeon and a patient on the edge. But it took a few years to get over my fear.

When I started at DoveLewis as a young tech we didn’t have our own boarded surgeons (THANK YOU Dr. Magee and Dr. Richter for being awesome surgeons and fantastic people to work with! I don’t ever want to go back…) and would rely on the good hearts of the surgeons in Portland to come in and cut our various and sundry soft tissue train wrecks when the floor was insane etc. etc. etc. They were, MOST of the time, gracious and relatively easy to work with, but they were used to their surgery suite, their instruments, their technicians, daytime hours, you know. This made for a stressful experience for the DoveLewis technician running anesthesia and trying to get used to a new doctor. At least for me. I was also unfamiliar with the set up, monitoring equipment, instrument configurations and general flow of one of these major emergency procedures and that didn’t help my comfort level in that room. A surgical patient would come in and I would very quickly find something else to do and hope no one noticed my lack of eye contact.

I did eventually get thrown to the surgical wolves and had a terrible experience with a malleable retractor (A what? Oh. Um. Let me look through all of these poorly labeled drawers and see if I can find that amongst these unlabeled instruments) and a frustrated surgeon. I aim to please. I’m a fixer, an overachiever, and generally good natured person who avoids conflict whenever I can. When I’m trapped in a tense situation things can only go from bad to worse. I managed to not cry until I got home that night but my surgical anxiety only worsened. There was so much that I didn’t know I didn’t even know where to start, what to ask, where to go to get information. Eventually, right place right time, I was working on a quiet evening when a GDV presented. One of our very patient staff docs performed the surgery and walked me through the process. My confidence skyrocketed just knowing what to expect for the next time. I was comfortable asking questions, and even had fun…

These days you will find me pushing people out of way to monitor critical anesthesia. I love it. The more CRIs the better. Blood transfusions? Central lines? Repeated injections of epinephrine to keep the heart rate high enough to keep the patient alive?

[True story, last surgery of an 18-hour holiday on-call stretch, the dog had arrested under anesthesia at the referring vet. So it was sent to us to try and die on our table. Not on my watch.]

Bring it. I’m ready. And I learned something from that first horrible surgical experience. A little hand holding isn’t a bad thing. First of all, the drawers and instruments in our surgical suites are labeled within an inch of their lives. Even if you’ve never looked at a single surgical instrument in your life, if you can read, you can find it. Technicians are taken into the surgery suite without the stress of a patient and we do dry runs of the ventilator. We talk about flow and who stands where and what to expect. They shadow our amazing super smarty pants anesthesia technician on a surgery or two and then have a mentor with them until they feel ready to go it alone. And let me tell you. The look on that technician’s face as they wheel their first GDV out of surgery and into ICU is priceless. Their confidence as they round that case to the overnight tech helps them practically skip out of there. I love it. And I love surgery.



Kelly Krueger's picture

I am so happy to hear that you do dry runs with your new techs, as well as shadowing her, so that they can learn w/o the stress of a patient possibly dying at their hands. It sucks to just be thrown in with no confidence or knowledge of how surgery should go. THIS is the way all hospitals should teach their new technicians!! Way to go Dove!

Stephanie Brozo's picture

I hope one day I can become confident in surgery and anesthesia! It is a huge area of interest for me, but as a baby tech in training still, I fear being by myself for the first time!

Jayde Quigley's picture

Stephanie B, you are a rock star already and you'll only get better!

Megan Brashear's picture

Love the support of each other! As I tell students and new techs - a little fear isn't a bad thing. When you stop being afraid you start making mistakes. Confidence comes with repetition, so get in there, learn from any mistakes and before you know it you'll LOVE it.

Eliese Marin's picture

You should totally add a VTS (Anesthesia)to your titles since you now love it!

Megan Brashear's picture

Eliese, I would LOVE to add a VTS in anesthesia but I don't spend at least 60% of my time in surgery (at least that was the rule last time I checked). But I LOVE it in there!

Sarah Attwaters's picture

The first time I was thrown to the wolves was a complete gong show! The patient was bleeding everywhere and the vet needed flush. I run out of the Sx room, grabbed a 30ml syringe, 18g needle and stab it right through the bag into my finger. The vet was freaking, I'm bleeding like a stuck pig and the new girl (I mean started that morning, never worked in a clinic before new!) is standing there staring. With one I hand I get a new everything and try again. I stretch my arm in handing the Dr the flush with my bleeding hand outside and I look at the girl with a bandage in my mouth and yell, HELP ME PUT THIS ON! I SWEAR I DON'T HAVE AIDS! After the surgery it was a hilarious and we were glad the new girl stayed on!

Michelle McCann's picture

sounds like my first hand in assisting a critical care. I held off to long on the iv cath. Didnt know what the heck they were pulling out of the belly in a syringe. But now i know. I love this website!

ashley lauran agar's picture

The "dry run" idea is wonderful and can be used for many tasks as a training tool. I am going to bring this to the next management meeting to discuss implementation.

Jerri Ann Sullivan's picture

Thank you Meghan for this Blog! it was good for me to read. I have been a technician in general practice for my entire adult life, but started working in the ICU at an emergency and specialty hospital - and boy did I find out fast what a different ball game it is! At times I feel like I am not adding anything to the team, or that the other technicians are so much more qualified than I am, and I have been afraid to ask for help or ask questions because I fear they will be looked at as stupid. It was good for me to read that sometimes hand-holding is ok and asking questions is ok, and while I may not be a super tech in the ICU world YET, I will get there in time!