Whistle while you work

August 30, 2012

One of the great joys of anaesthesia is that the majority of the time patients are unconscious. You hope. It is, after all, your job to make sure they can’t hear or feel anything unless they are having just a local anaesthetic, or are meant to be waking up.  Or not yet asleep. You get the drift.

And many operations can take a number of hours so the healthcare professionals can talk openly and in a relaxed fashion if they want to. What they did at the weekend. How their lovelife is going. How the wedding plans are going.  Jokes. Banter. The craic in theatre is like no other.

It very much depends on who the individuals are and how they like to work. Because everyone is working non stop, and no one forgets what the purpose of being there is, but with experience lots of operations are routine, and everyone can join in the chit chat. Whilst in training in anaesthetics you are hand held initially, which basically means you have someone senior with you nearly all of the time. This also has its advantages in that you can take it in turns to pop off for a coffee. Obviously you can’t drink or eat whilst in an operating theatre, so it is a welcome and joyous perk of anaesthetics to be able to pop out to the coffee room every few hours. Surgeons can’t do that mid-op as they would have to re-scrub up and that is a mightly pain. However they do it between patients when anesthetists are tied up taking one patient to recovery and anesthetising the next patient on the list to try to minimise theatre down time. A smooth succession of patient out patient in.

The other entertainment that was not infequent in operating theatres was music. Seemingly always the surgeon’s choice, never the anaesthetist’s or nurse’s or ODA’s. The prima donna got to choose. And some surgeon’s were prima donnas; others couldn’t have been lovelier. In general the urologists were good fun – anyone who makes their life’s work staring down men’s willies has to have a sense of humour, and the orthopaedic surgeons the builders. Often rugby players. Handy with a black and decker. Those doing neuro (brain surgery) were so patient, detailed and skilled it was awesome. But their operations go on. And on. And on.

And the music they would choose would be as diverse as them. Some loved classical or opera, others heavy metal, some a light and fluffy pop. A standard time filler would be to play games like ” Top ten tunes to operate by”(not!)  and we would all chip in with our hilarious ideas………….Under pressure,  Tears are not enough,  Help me make it through the night, You ain’t seen nothing yet, Comfortably numb, Another One Bites the Dust, Killing me softly…..

If you are going in to have an operation soon let me reassure you that there have been studies showing that surgeons are happier and less stressed when they are listening to their music. Even if it’s Metallica. So when you hear their  “For whom the bell tolls” or Iron Maiden’s “Dance of Death”  booming out as you are drifting off don’t worry – it’s a sign of a happy cutter.


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