Dr Gillian Jacobs-Martin is a Specialist Anaesthetist practicing at Netcare Settlers Hospital in Grahamstown. Although every day is different, a day in her work life involves preoperative patient consultation, administering anaesthesia and teaching junior doctors. On this particular day, Monday the 6th of October, she joined Dr Petersen, the Orthopaedic Surgeon who had three patients scheduled for surgery.
After each operation, the operating theatre is cleaned and prepared before the next operation can take place. The staff also add any other equipment that the Surgeon or the Anaesthetist might need, depending on the operation being performed.
It is not always necessary for a patient to receive general anaesthesia, which means they are they are totally asleep during the operation. They can discuss several options with the Anaesthetist. For example, this patient had an operation on his knee and could have just had the nerves going to his legs blocked while he stayed awake. This is called regional anaesthesia. He would have been awake and would be breathing on his own but he would not have felt any pain because his legs would be numb.
The surgery and the anaesthesia each carry their own risks. There are certain things that the Anaesthetist can prepare for based on the patient’s medical history. However during surgery, the Anaesthetist on duty responds as the situation unfolds in order to guide the patient safely through the procedure.
One of the big problems that any hospital has is trying to control infections. Therefore the Anaesthetist also gives the patient antibiotics to help them fight any infections they may have and to minimise the chance of them getting any post-operation infections.
Sometimes, the patient’s airway is swollen and the doctors cannot insert a tube into the patient’s windpipe through the mouth. When that happens, they can use the above device to connect a needle and syringe to the patient’s windpipe and deliver oxygen to the lungs.
After surgery, doctors cannot accurately predict how the patient is going to react. Therefore these post-operative visits are important because the patient can then tell the doctor if they are feeling too much pain, or if they are nauseous or if they have any other unexpected symptoms.
It is important for the doctor to write down any medication given to the patient and to tell the nursing staff what they gave the patient and how the patient was feeling. This helps decrease any chances of miscommunication between the doctors, nurses and the patient and to keep accurate medical records for the patient.
Most days end around four o’clock in the afternoon, but no day is the same. Some days end earlier or later than others.
Read more about Dr Jacobs Martin on our Healthy People page.