Tom Sharon
An anesthesiologist falling asleep during the procedure


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Choosing an Anesthesiologist

When it comes to choosing an anesthetist, we usually accept without question whomever the surgeons recommend. This is because most of us do not understand the process of anesthesia.
Here are a few suggestions to follow before you sign the consent form:

1. Insist on a meeting with the proposed anesthetist.
2. Regard this meeting as though you are interviewing someone for the most important job on the planet (keeping you alive).
3. Ask the applicant to hold out his or her hand, palm down, and rest a piece of paper on it. If the paper is shaking, get someone else to do your case.
4. If the applicant "passes" the paper trick, ask if he or she is a smoker or drinker. If the candidate gets insulted, find someone else.
5. Ask the applicant to describe the intubation process.
6. Ask how the doctor will know that the tube is in your trachea and not in your esophagus. The answer should be that he or she would listen to your lungs and your stomach with a stethoscope to find out where the air is going.
I actually saw a case in which an anesthesiologist fell asleep during a procedure back in 1980 while I was a circulating nurse in the operating room. The seventy-two-year-old anesthesiologist was sitting on his stool, head bowed, sound asleep. I had to wake him up to tell him that the patient was turning purple. Upon waking up to find me operating his ventilator, the anesthesiologist started yelling, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
I replied, "Your job."
The surgeon interjected, "You should give the kid half your fee."
After the case was over, I overheard the surgeon yelling at the anesthesiologist in the doctor's lounge. Soon thereafter, the other surgeons began refusing to do their cases with that particular anesthesiologist, and he consequently retired. I don't mean to imply that older doctors are always the problem-you just need to be sure that the person handling this tricky procedure is highly skilled and is having an "on" day.

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