Archive March 2014 XV, No. 3

When the Doc Becomes the Patient

An anesthesiologist used to being above the table shares 6 lessons she learned while being on the table.

Nina Singh-Radcliff


anesthesiologist Nina Singh-Radcliff, MD EYE OPENER During her time as a patient, anesthesiologist Nina Singh-Radcliff, MD, picked up some valuable insights.

I'm an anesthesiologist. A few months ago, I had surgery in an outpatient facility and experienced how different it is to be on the table rather than above it. It was a tremendous learning experience. I learned that there's more to caring for a patient than performing the technical aspects of our jobs.

1 Keep the patient updated on schedule changes.
The case before mine ran 45 minutes long. I didn't have family or friends sitting with me to soak up the time. The wait seemed like an eternity. Thankfully, the nurses checked in on me periodically to see if I needed anything, like a blanket or a bathroom visit.

2 Introduce each member of the
surgical team and shake your patient's hand.

Other than my surgeon and physician anesthesiologist, I didn't know the members of the medical team who would be caring for me. In any other professional setting, walking up to and touching a person without permission or introducing yourself is highly inappropriate. I appreciated it when the team members told me their names and what their roles were in the procedure.

3 Keep the pre-operative area quiet and peaceful.
Having surgery is tremendously emotional and stressful. The last thing I wanted to hear among the surgical staff was a review of the football game the night before or a debate over the latest news from Washington.

4 Keep the patient warm in the pre-operative holding area.
I hate being cold. I have self-diagnosed myself with Raynaud's because I actually feel pain when I'm cold. As you can imagine, when I was dressed in an OR gown, I was uncomfortably cold. But I was given an abundant supply of warm blankets in the pre-operative holding area, which was fabulous. The OR bed was pre-warmed with the warming blanket before I entered, and it was immediately placed over me when I got onto the table. Being kept warm was such a comfort.

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