As a veterinary technician, monitoring anesthesia can be the biggest privilege and responsibility I will ever have. It is more of an art form than a science at times, but regardless, it definitely has aspects that make it very frustrating. I do love being part of surgeries, but here is why I hate monitoring anesthesia:
1. The dreaded anesthetic sheet
In order to monitor anesthesia appropriately, we know that vitals must be recorded at a minimum of every 5 minutes. There are several types of anesthetic monitoring sheets to record these vitals on, and most are just as annoying as the next. Who has time to make a pretty graph of symbols that all look the same? Don’t forget about the time you must spend to get those papers scanned into the computer!
2. Fear of losing a patient
Just about every tech will lose a patient under anesthesia, and most of the time it will not be anyone’s fault. It is tough to know that at any moment your patient could slip away so the time monitoring anesthesia is alway spent with a little bit of fear. I remember a cat that died during a routine spay at a spay/neuter clinic in tech school. The tech student had a difficult time coping with it even though she did nothing wrong and there was nothing to suggest that the patient was at any additional risk. Any one of the students could have had that cat on their table. Sometimes we will never know why a patient succumbed to anesthesia, but the fear of losing a patient never goes away.
We are taught that the less time an animal spends under anesthesia, the better. Often times we wait for things to happen that are out of our hands. I have waited on owners to make decisions about how many teeth they will allow us to extract, or even worse, I have had to wait on doctors getting into the operating room from late appointments. Whatever the case may be, waiting is not fun with an animal under anesthesia.
When I first started learning about anesthesia and monitoring patients, I remember my teacher explaining it as hours of boredom and moments of panic. Nine times out of ten, patients are extremely boring under anesthesia. You might have to fiddle with the SPO2 monitor to get a more precise reading, but otherwise it is normally a very calm time. This is not to say that we are not on high alert at all times. When a patient’s blood pressure drops, or she starts throwing VPCs, then panic kicks in and you have to find your mental checklist to determine if your patient truly is having a problem. In a split second, boredom can turn into a life or death situation.
I always hope that each time my patient is under anesthesia that they have a quick procedure, and an easy recovery. As fearful as I might become or as bored as I might get, I always make sure I monitor my patient like it is life or death. I use all the tools the clinic provides, but mostly importantly I follow my training, and never take a short cut!