I am now back, full-time, in the operating theatre (albeit on a short-term contract).
The operating theatre is a self-contained, ‘little oasis’, of intense medicine. The work is highly-focused, on one patient at a time, and there are few disturbances once the work is underway. I guess it must be a bit like the experience of a flight crew once airborne.
The feeling is highly pleasurable. You are ‘in control’ of your own little world and all your attention can be devoted to the operation. In anaesthesia, the best anaesthetics are seemingly boring ones; no-one wants an exciting ‘flight’! Of course, there are sometimes moments of extreme stress (like flying too) but as experience increases, these are few and far between. When they do occur, your training helps you cope with most contingencies.
To mix my metaphors, you can think of the anaesthetist as a chef. You take combinations of drugs and techniques and develop them in a way that produces the best effect for the patient and surgeon. This is very creative and satisfying. A physiologically stable, pain and nausea-free patient is a powerful, positive reinforcement for any anaesthetist!
The final shot-in-the-arm is the gratitude and pleasure expressed by the nurses in the post-anaesthetic care unit and on the wards. They see the direct results of your ability and a wise anaesthetist will value their feedback. If they are strangely quiet and reticent when you appear, ask what you’re doing wrong.