The world of nursing, since the pioneer Florence Nightingale, is continuing to diversify into other areas and niches not previously explored. Gone are the days where everyone graduating with nursing qualifications are restricted to a broader practice, with interesting sectors like mental health and children’s nursing becoming pivotal. One such area previously in the more ‘fringe’ sector is that of an anaesthetic nurse. Anaesthetist nurses are tasked with assisting the anaesthetist during the induction, progress and termination of general surgery. This hands-on role is perfect for those who want a dynamic, crucial part of theatre operations and to advance their knowledge of patient comfort and sanitation within the theatre.
This vital perioperative role involves communication and collaboration with surgery staff, the anaesthetist and the general surgeon. The name of this role can sometimes be misleading, as you may be lead to believe these nurses only provide and support the induction of anaesthetic. Far from that, these nurses have completed their training as general staff nurses, but undertake further study to be scrub practitioners and nurse anaesthetists. So what sort of roles do anaesthetic nurses carry out?
In emergency surgeries, the nurse, as part of the theatre team, can provide support and make executive decisions alongside the general surgeon such as:
An aspect that draws people towards this career is the prospect of having real autonomy and a level of clinical decision making based on experience and competency. Surgery, especially emergency surgery, can often be hectic and high pressured, and having the abilities of a staff nurse can allow a very flexible approach to each patient. For example, stabilising a patient with a severe injury might require many clinicians at one time to compress wounds, stabilise the patient and continually provide ongoing intravenous fluid. Having an anaesthetist nurse on hand allows for a more streamlined approach to situation management and collaboration of many different niche clinicians.
When in longer surgeries, the anaesthetist nurse may be called upon alongside scrub practitioners to find and sanitise surgery equipment such as scalpels and other tools. Furthermore, anaesthetist nurses can administer local anaesthetic for smaller surgeries, and participate as a crucial part of the care team by bridging the gap between specialists and patients. In the planned surgery scenario, these nurses discuss the operation and any complications/considerations with the patient before and after the surgery, whilst also leaning on their staff nurse background to provide compassion and support.
In cases with older people and young children, having a face they see regularly before and after their procedure can vastly improve the patients perspective towards their treatment, and may help to provide emotional support in difficult times. This role is very attractive to nursing graduates because of the variety of patient facing and surgical work, something which in the past have been left very distant from each other. The anaesthetist nurse is the perfect staff member to oversee basic surgical functions and liaise with families and ward staff when general surgeons and specialists are under pressure.
This multi-disciplinary role might be just the thing you were looking for if you enjoy your patient facing practice, but also wish to achieve further qualifications and special certifications under BARNA (British Anaesthetic and Recovery Nurse Association). Although important in planned surgery, anaesthetic nurses really come into their own during emergency procedures and stabilisation of patients. For example, anaesthetic nurses can be responsible for airway management post-surgery, as well as intubating and monitoring a patient during and after cardiac arrest. If you love your job, but want to have a more dynamic and ever changing range of responsibilities in your working day, becoming an anaesthetic nurse might be just what you’re after.
For qualification, general nurses study a post-registration course, normally certified by BARNA, which involves a day of study per week and lasts between 9-12 months. What’s more, this certification can lead to degree certification should you choose to enter another niche of nursing.