Medical Malpractice: Anesthesia Care Team
The practice of anesthesiology has changed dramatically in the last several decades. The days of having a physician anesthesiologist present and managing care throughout the surgery are largely gone and replaced with an “Anesthesia Care Team” directed and supervised by the physician anesthesiologist. Knowing how and what to ask your anesthesia care team can help alleviate your concerns and ensure that you or your loved ones are in good hands.
“Who Are You?”
The typical anesthesia care team is comprised of a physician anesthesiologist and either a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or Anesthesia Assistant (AA). You should be introduced to the physician anesthesiologist before your procedure. The anesthesiologist should describe the anesthesia plan for your procedure, including the potential risks of general anesthesia.
In addition, the anesthesiologist should introduce the other members of the anesthesia care team participating in your procedure, such as a CRNA or AA. If your Anesthesia Care Team includes a Student Registered Nurse Anesthetist (SRNA) be sure to ask whether the SRNA will be directly supervised or left alone during the procedure.
“Who Will Manage My Anesthesia During the Surgery?”
This is the time to ask the anesthesiologist how involved he or she will be during the procedure. If there is a CRNA or AA on the care team, the anesthesiologist will probably not be present during the bulk of the surgery. Ask the anesthesiologist to explain the process, ask questions like… Will you remain in my operating room the entire time? If not, will you periodically check in on me during the surgery? Will you be present when the surgery is completed and I am brought out of the anesthesia? How many patients are you supervising at the same time?
If an SRNA is involved in your care, confirm that a fully accredited anesthesiologist or CRNA will also be present.
“Who Do You Work For?”
Most patients are stuck with the anesthesia team that the hospital or surgery center provides. Yet, most patients also have no idea that the hospital does not employ the anesthesia team and will deny responsibility for the anesthesia team if something goes wrong.