Champions for Children: Meet Georgie Duignan

This year, National Anaesthesia Day is being celebrated on 17 October. The theme for this year is Anaesthesia and children: Caring for your kids which aims to help educate parents and the community on how anaesthetists keep young people safe while under anaesthetic.

We sat down with Georgie Duignan to learn more about her role and the part she plays in helping keep young people safe.

Tell us about yourself and your role.

I’m Georgie and I am an anaesthetic doctor – I am the current chief fellow in anaesthesia at the RCH. My job involves looking after children who require an anaesthetic for procedures. Anaesthetists work in many locations throughout the hospital, not just theatre. You can find us in the imaging suites, intensive care units, emergency departments and pain clinics – to name but a few places.

In any hospital, we often make up the largest clinical department due to the singular nature of our job.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start my day by visiting the patients on our procedure list. I talk to patients and their families to get their medical history, talk through their expectations of the day and address any concerns. I answer questions about how their child will go to sleep and we discuss plans for keeping them comfortable and safe before, during, and after their procedure.

I then meet with our theatre team for our daily huddle: anaesthesia technicians, surgeons, nursing staff and theatre technicians – we talk about all the patients on our list for that day. We highlight safety moments and agree on our work flow plan for the day. Teamwork makes dream work! We complete our safety checks and commence our work for the day.

Why did you choose to work at the RCH?

The RCH has a world renowned reputation – I am from Ireland and completed my anaesthesia training there. Over the years I have realised that great places of work are only as good as the people who work there. It is an honour to work with my exceptional colleagues who strive for excellence every day.

How do anaesthetists keep children safe during surgery?

Safety through vigilance – we are by your child’s side throughout their entire time with us. We use our extensive years of training, aided by our high tech monitors to watch your child while they are anaesthetised – observing and listening to our monitors, which record vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels and anaesthesia levels.

We also communicate closely with proceduralists and surgeons. Theatre is a unique space in the hospital where there can be up to 10 team members looking after one patient at any one time – communication is key.

Do you have any advice for parents who might be anxious about their child needing anaesthesia?

Of course, it is natural to be anxious about your child needing anaesthesia for a procedure. Where appropriate, it is important your child knows why they are coming to hospital.

Fears are legitimate and can be based on past experiences – we will answer all your questions, offer reassurance and listen as you advocate for your child. Our job is to make sure all children needing a procedure are safe and comfortable. RCH offers a safe environment with sub-specialty trained paediatric anaesthetists.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to become an anaesthetist?

It’s a wonderful career that can lead you in many directions. Anaesthesia opens doors to pursue parallel interests such as peri-operative medicine, research, medical education, pain medicine and academic anaesthesia. Real world anaesthesia – providing anaesthesia care in low and middle income countries – is a valuable contribution.

Anaesthetists have a particular skill set that can be applied to life saving situations. Along with our ENT colleagues – we can be counted on as airway experts. Our years of training make us adept at recognising and treating emergencies.

To become an anaesthetist, you must first become a doctor. Anaesthetists are highly trained doctors with a minimum of five years of training after medical school. Paediatric anaesthesia is a subspecialty and requires an extra year of training. For more information visit the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and Faculty of Pain Medicine website.


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