For the past few years I’ve been working in the operating room in a variety of hospitals with a wide spectrum of surgical specialties. People undergoing anesthesia remind me of intoxicated friends; whatever base emotions that exist are magnified, be it fear, anger or what have you. Recently my favorite patients to work with have been pediatrics due partially to the fact that children seem to be free of the uglier human emotions.
Inevitably, before the gas is administered there is a moment when they realize they are in a foreign environment and their parents aren’t present. Just like your drunk friends, distraction is key. “What’s your buddies name there?” or “what’s your favorite color?” are my typical choices. The difference in medical staff’s behavior is markedly different between adult and pediatric patients too. Everyone is much more gentle and sweet to children, I think that’s natural and partially subconscious, but at any rate it makes for a much more pleasant working environment.
Of course, it’s important to warn patients before attach monitors on them or that you’re going to touch a part of their body, that’s just courtesy. My favorite sentence from the anesthesiologists spiel about attaching EKG leads is “We’re going to be putting some stickers on you, nothing hurts, it’s just cold.” In life, many situations elicit the ‘hurt’ reaction. Change, disappointment, and uncertainty all can cause visceral reactions and emotional pain. When I’m facing something like that it’s important for me to stop for a moment and do a mental pat down. Am I physically injured? Is this an in-escapable situation or are there options? Nothing hurts, there’s just a challenge to be overcome.