A day in the life of... James Bennett

Published: May 08, 2018

On Friday mornings I usually go into the hospital a little earlier than usual to see my morning patients. The drive usually consists of avoiding the Today Programme on the radio and trying to focus on the day ahead. I have been a Consultant Anaesthetist at Birmingham Children’s’ Hospital for 21years and my main interests are liver transplantation and long term vascular access.

I usually arrive at 7.30 am and attempt to see a few patients before the weekly transplant MDT. As usual, I only manage to find half of the patients and will try and scurry to assess the rest a little later.

Between 8am and 9am I attend the MDT which today is a really positive meeting discussing some very sick children. I sneak out early from this meeting to assess the remaining patients for my operating list.

Just after 9am I start anaesthetising a list of frail children with liver disease. As usual at around 10am the telephone starts to ring with the first of 2 telephone calls come through to my theatre from paediatric trainees requesting lines for sick babies. As is so often the case I am unable to help and suggest they contact the emergency team. Alas they are also busy and unable to accommodate these quite genuine cases. I continue anaesthetising the cases in my theatre, trying not to dwell on my inability to help.

Ten minutes later one of the hepatology ANPs comes to theatre requesting a line for a 2 week old baby with acute liver failure. I am happy to oblige but this case will inevitably lead to the cancellation of an elective case, the referring team are happy with this scenario. Predictably this infant is hypoglycaemic and has an unrecordable coagulopathy: equally predictably I am a solo anaesthetist this morning and unable to see the baby preoperatively.

We send for another routine case followed by the sick neonate. As is so often the way the anaesthesia and line insertion are easier to perform than the logistic challenges of theatre scheduling. The baby awakens quickly, the relieved parents arrive, and I finish writing my notes.

It is now 1:10pm and I am in a dilemma: three patients to see for my lines list on three different (and distant) wards, oh and lunch to eat and be ready at 1:30pm. I tend to wear training shoes rather than theatre clogs for this very reason. I decide to briskly jog to see the day case patient as he is least likely to have been consented by a referring team. I explain the procedure and gain consent from the parents, and jog up to the theatre.

The team are ready; we discuss the patients and list order. I am relieved to see Katie one of our senior trainees who will be anaesthetising. I am now rather conscious that I skipped lunch, but this is quickly forgotten as we breeze through the list. I have been joined by a delightful consultant anaesthetist from Pakistan who has been with us for a month to learn about long term paediatric central venous access. As is so often the case I realise that I have failed to spend as much time as planned teaching her and apologise. She is as ever very gracious, “You guys are so busy here.” Once again I am humbled.

I thank the theatre team for what was genuinely a very pleasant and efficient lines list. As I step into the theatre corridor, I learn that the emergency team have just resuscitated a very sick child who has suffered a traumatic haemothorax. I offer assistance and moral support and am rather relieved to hear that everything is under control.

I quickly check on the post-op patients and return to the office to look at any emails. As I sit down I realise that my appetite has gone despite no lunch and that I certainly have no great appetite for emails, anyway there are always far fewer on a Friday!

As I leave the main entrance of the hospital I bump into a friend and colleague who was involved in the resuscitation earlier, we head for the car park. As we pass a café on the way we both look at each other, smile, nod and go in for a pot of tea. The challenges and difficulties of another day melt away.

Fortified by Earl Grey tea I drive home, where I am greeted by my daughter holding my running kit. “Dad, you’re late for training. Again!”

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