Open day at hospital chance to explain what job entails

Anaesthetists are the almost-invisible health carers but Wanganui's wanted to come out in the open for World Anaesthesia Day.

Derek Barrett and Marco Meijer spent the morning by the hospital reception desk yesterday with equipment, brochures and a video to demonstrate what anaesthetists do.

People were very interested, Dr Meijer said.

Some even rang the switchboard to find out when they would be there, in order to make sure they would have a chance to talk.

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Shania Whiley had brought her nephew to the hospital for an appointment. She wants to be a nurse, and had a lot of questions to ask.

Lots of people who go to hospital for an operation barely glimpse an anaesthetist.

"You come in and go to sleep.

"All the time you are sleeping the anaesthetist is looking after you and protecting you and taking care of you," Dr Barrett said.

Anaesthetists are trained as doctors first, and then they specialise.

They are experts in resuscitation, giving local and general anaesthetics, maintaining breathing and heart rate during anaesthesia and managing pain both during and after surgery.

People under anaesthetic can need up to 14 different medications.

In the emergency department and intensive care unit anaesthetists keep people on ventilators alive. They also run clinics for people who have chronic pain.

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Yesterday they wanted to highlight a new campaign to get obese people to lose weight before they have surgery.

People with a body mass index (BMI) over 35 are obese. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight by twice your height.

"Thirty-five is okay for surgery, but 40 isn't," Dr Barrett said.

Obese people have more problems with surgery. They are more likely to have breathing obstructions, their weight puts pressure on their lungs and makes it harder for them to breathe, they get more chest infections and are more likely to have a heart attack either during surgery or after it.

Dr Meijer hopes health providers outside the hospital will join the campaign to help patients lose weight.

They can offer the help of dietitians and diabetes nurses and prescribe healthful exercise.

"The aim is to get people ready for surgery, but then hopefully they will continue afterwards," he said.