Anesthesia is a team sport in AAHA’s newest course

AAHA’s Anesthesia Safety and Monitoring Guidelines Certificate has something for the whole veterinary team—from CSRs to surgeons. It’s an interactive, scenario-based online CE experience that makes sure everyone is speaking the same language before, during, and after anesthesia.

By Kristen Green Seymour

The newest AAHA Learning course, the Anesthesia Safety and Monitoring Guidelines Certificate, covers the latest anesthetic safety recommendations and best practices for small animal anesthetic care—but that’s just the official description. It certainly does cover those topics, but there’s also so much more that can help every member of the anesthesia team, from CSRs to surgeons, whether they’re looking for RACE credits or simply want to boost their anesthesia understanding. 

“Anesthesia seems easy if things are going right,” said Tamara Grubb, DVM, PhD, DACVAA, who was a co-chair of the 2020 AAHA Anesthesia and Monitoring Guidelines for Dogs and Cats task force and contributed to the webinar featured in the course.  

“But if things go wrong and the team is untrained, the patient can experience serious consequences including death. This course will prepare the team to ideally prevent or correct complications before things get critical.”  

Jennifer Sager, BS, CVT, VTS (Anesthesia and Analgesia) was also a task force co-chair and contributor to the course webinar, and she agrees about the importance of seeing anesthesia as a group effort.  

“Anesthesia is a team event, from the client to the client service team, to the clinician and technician/nursing staff,” she said. “It takes every one of those members as an individual spoke on the wheel to support the entire process.”  

That team approach extends to the team of agents or drugs, monitoring equipment, and patient support equipment, she said—it’s all necessary to provide the best possible care for the patient, and any deviation can cause adverse patient events.  

“To understand the team anesthesia concept, people must be trained in the importance of the use of the equipment, patient preparation, anesthetic pharmacology, and how to respond to adverse patient events encountered prior, during, and potentially after the direct anesthesia phase.” 

A real virtual experience 

Grubb believes participants will be particularly pleased with the opportunities this course offers to work through cases. “Nothing better than ‘seeing’ what might be your own patients and getting some tips and insights on appropriate anesthetic and analgesic protocols,” she said. 

That interactive element is part of what makes this certificate stand out, said AAHA Senior Veterinary Learning Strategist Andrea Spediacci, DVM. “As with all our certifications, we went to the experts and asked them to help us elevate the certificate so that it would be something different than your standard CE. And it is—it’s different,” she said. “It’s interactive. There’s the video element, but then there are also interactive elements where you’re answering questions and going through various scenarios.” 

Spediacci hopes that future AAHA certificates will provide a similar user experience, but acknowledges that providing participants with this multimedia approach, including written, visual, and spatial elements to address the various ways people learn, is of particular importance when it comes to anesthesia.  

“Anesthesia is hard, both from a medicine and a communication point of view,” she said. “It’s inherently hard to talk about and hard to learn, especially when you’re just out of vet school, in a clinic, and find yourself in a scary or unexpected anesthesia situation—but this course addresses those concerns.”  

And, she adds, the fact that it offers downloadable printouts to keep on your clinic door, as well as action guides to help you review plans for improvement with your team, is also key. “It helps to ensure that you’re surrounded by people who also understand anesthesia and can help you when you do land in those scary situations,” she said, “and it will also help you with how to bring that situation to the client.” 

‘From doorknob to doorknob’ 

In Grubb’s opinion, a lack of communication with the client on what anesthesia is and what you do at your practice to ensure safe anesthesia is one of the biggest, most common mistakes veterinary professionals make in this realm.  

“Anesthesia truly is a continuum of care from ‘doorknob to doorknob,’ as we pointed out in the AAHA Anesthesia Safety and Monitoring Guidelines,” she said. “In all my years in veterinary medicine, I have had pet parents ask, ‘Did my pet survive anesthesia?’ more times than, ‘How did the surgery go?’ They are concerned and we need to support the human-animal bond, which takes the whole vet team.”  

As far as Grubb is concerned, everyone even remotely involved with anesthesia should take the course, even if their sole involvement is communicating with the client before or after the anesthesia event. “It is constructed and written in a way that everyone will learn and benefit,” she said. 

After all, the client, too, is considered an important part of the anesthesia team throughout this course. “The client often does not understand the totality of anesthesia, only that they are nervous about their pet undergoing a procedure, because a friend had their patient pass away or do poorly,” Sager said. “The client doesn’t need to understand all of the mechanics behind [it] but beginning honest conversations prior to anesthesia and ensuring the steps taken to provide the best care for their family member helps reassure an often scary time.”  

Besides, Sager added, the client can be a portal of helpful information if you take the time to listen, especially if the pet has experienced slow recovery in previous anesthesia events. “Also, we must educate the client with post operative knowledge to help keep an eye on their family member after they return home,” she said. “The healing and recovery process is still going, so we must be able to communicate with them the signs to look for or the avenue to ask questions after their return home.” 

From the tools designed to empower every member of the team to communicate with clients to the practice scenarios that allow participants to think through real-life situations they could face, Spediacci is thrilled to see so many people showing interest in this new certificate.  

“Hopefully,” she said, “all of that gives you the experience you need to walk away from the course and take what you’ve learned right to your clinic.” 

Learn more about all the AAHA guidelines certificates at 


Photo credit: Hybrid Images © E+ via Getty Images Plus     

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors. 



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