Keep Breathing! [Clinics Series]

Midway into my two-week rotation with the anesthesia service, I lay in my bed and, I swear, heard the steady beeping of anesthesia monitors as clearly as if my roommate was monitoring a patient in her bedroom. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the anesthesia service, I was somewhat perplexed that a pulse hovering around 100 beats per minute had been so intensely seared into my brain.

Here’s an overview: We reported to the prep room at 7:30am and had 30 minutes to start working up our case for the day before topic rounds started at 8:00am. During rounds, we discussed topics such as oxygenation, CPR, drugs that are used in anesthesia, hypotension, etc. These are all things we’ve learned about in our previous three years, but the conversation usually went something like, “Who remembers __________ from that one unit of [physiology/pharmacology/anatomy] you took two years ago?” Sometimes I remembered and felt like a superstar, and sometimes I didn’t remember and felt the exhausted resignation that comes from knowing that you’ll never remember it all.


Me playing the part of “Anesthesia Student”

After rounds, which usually lasted an hour, we would return to our cases in the prep room. And by that I mean we returned to the prep room to find out whether or not our case was a) even ours anymore or b) almost completely finished without us. The anesthesia service is staffed by a team of exceedingly talented, patient veterinary technicians who are more than capable of running things without us. In fact, we come tottering in like toddlers with sticky fingers and our shoelaces tied together and slow everything down. But then it IS a veterinary school, and everyone has to start somewhere.

The next part goes by quickly – finalizing the anesthesia plan, tracking down the other doctors/students on the case, inducing the patient, hooking them up to all the monitors. And then the beeping starts. And for the duration of anesthesia, the beeping persists. We record the patient’s vitals with a series of lines and dots on our anesthesia record. After three hours, the record continues on a second page. After three more hours, the record continues on a third page. Thankfully, my longest procedure only took three pages – which, yes, means I sat in a room listening to beeping and making dots and lines on a sheet of paper for the length of an entire workday. No wonder the beeping has infiltrated my brain.

My favorite thing about the anesthesia service is absolutely the people there. They are so patient and understanding. I love the way they ask questions, and I believe it’s the same way I asked questions of my students – always looking for the part of the answer that’s correct, acknowledging that first, and then asking increasingly leading questions until the student [me, in this case] eventually gets there. Moreover, the times when I descended to “I have absolutely no idea,” it was always ok. No one (other than myself) told me I should know something I didn’t. It was an incredible and safe opportunity for growth, and I’m so fortunate that I got to start my very first clinical rotation with them. I can only hope the rest of my rotations will be so great!


This post is part of a series documenting my clinical year in veterinary school.  To read more from the series, please visit the Clinic Series homepage.

One thought on “Keep Breathing! [Clinics Series]

  1. Pingback: Magic or Medicine? | The Other Side of the Desk

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