Many of the careers in healthcare exist to make the jobs of the more well-known professionals easier. For every anesthesiologist, a trusty anesthesia technologist is there to provide the technical support necessary to make every procedure successful. In this episode, Dr. Richard Marn is joined by Phillip Hood, Jr., a certified anesthesia technologist who works at the Mount Sinai System as one of its lead anesthesia support coordinators. You will learn from this conversation how critical the anesthesia technologist’s job is and how it can be hands-on with patients in specific circumstances. You will also learn about the pathways that you can take if you want to consider this career choice for yourself.
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The Anesthesiologist’s Best Buddy With Anesthesia Technologist & Manager, Phillip Hood, Jr., Cer.A.T.
Have you ever wondered what are some of the people that make an anesthesiologist’s job like myself easier? We’re going to talk to one of those people. His name is Mr. Phil Hood, Jr. He is an anesthesia technologist. Phil achieved his EMT certificate at Southwest Community College in Memphis, Tennessee. He then became an EKG technician that allowed him to work at several locations in Tennessee. He became a certified anesthesia technologist through Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and then eventually moved to New York City in 2018. He’s worked at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital as a certified anesthesia tech and moved to Mount Sinai System where he is one of the lead anesthesia support coordinators. You’re going to learn how useful and hands-on this profession can be with patients. That can vary based on the location and the culture within which you’re working, as you will see. If you like what you’ve read and other episodes, please subscribe to the show. Let’s jump into this conversation.
I am with Phillip Hood, Jr. from Tennessee. You’re working in New York.
I’m in New York City. I’ve been here a little over two years.
Phillip Hood or Phil is a certified anesthesia technologist. We’re going to talk to him about that. First off, Phil, tell me what an anesthesia technologist basically does.
We come in every morning, usually before all the doctors come. Some of you guys would be running late and be rushing. We get in, we do a machine checkout on the anesthesia machine, which is what we call an FDA checkout.
How early do you show up?
Usually, 5:30 AM to 6:00 AM. We get the room prepared for the surgery. We have all of the intubating tools, we make sure that you have everything that you need to monitor the patient. That’s how our morning typically starts. When surgery starts, a lot of us go in during induction and anesthesiologists are CRNAs. We hook the patient up to the monitors like the EKG, the SPO2 monitor, blood pressure cuff. We run the vitals and then we start to help pre-oxygenate the patient. For some of the people that show up late, we hook them up, we pre-oxygenate as they draw their drugs.
You’re basically helping them with the start of the surgery in these ORs in the hospital.
Most of the time, ideally, we try to follow an attending because usually an attending maybe covers 2 or 3 rooms. We bounce around the room with the attending, start induction and then go on by our day. After induction as ORs come out, we turn over the room and get it prepared for the next case.
For some people who don’t know, induction is the start of the anesthetic portion of the procedure.
We get the baseline vitals and then we pre-oxygenate which fills their lungs with oxygen. We start pushing anesthetics.
Do you help the anesthesiologist administer the medicine as well sometimes?
Sometimes. In a trauma situation, yes. I’ll tell you about that experience when we get to the story.
Give me an idea. You help the start of the procedure and the procedure gets going, the anesthesia gets started. What’s the rest of your day like?
The rest of the day is going from room to room or OR to OR and grabbing supplies or accident providers, whatever they need and turn it over to the rooms and give a report to the next shift. Most of the time, we have to keep up with our equipment. We have what we call an airway cart. Usually, we use that for patients who are difficult to intubate or put the breathing tube in, to put it in simpler terms. Most of the time we’re walking around the OR collecting our equipment, helping the providers out. That’s pretty much it. Keeping up with our stock, checking expiration dates, going to the pharmacy to replenish drugs. It’s typically busy. You’re on your feet most of the day running around.
Are you making sure that inventory is in place for the anesthesia equipment and supplies?
Yes, we have a department called Material Management and they order all our supplies in stock in our main workroom, which is a central location to grab supplies and run into the ORs.Anesthesia technologists are the anesthesiologists’ right hand men and women. Click To Tweet
The anesthesia supplies equipment don’t supply themselves but you provide that function.
We’re somewhat like their right-hand men and women when it comes to. We’re a diverse group.
At the hospital you’re working, how many locations do you say you would have to cover for the day?
As a whole, we have 23 ORs. We have three endoscopy suites and three LMD rooms. We have another off-site like IR, radiology, MRI and we cover sometimes like the PACU because we have them start IVs if needed. We assist with IVs.
To cover all those locations, how many anesthesia technologists and techs are there on a given day?
Where I am, we have six techs. We split the work evenly. Most of the off sites like endoscopy, MRI and IR pretty much run themselves throughout the day. We focus mainly on the main OR and LMD. Typically, we would like to have more than that, ideally twelve. You want four rooms to one tech.
If you could summarize what an anesthesia technologist does in 1 to 2 sentences, how would you phrase it?
I would say anesthesia technologists are the first line of support to the providers when it comes to technical and also clinical support.
What time does your day usually end?
My techs work eight-hour shifts. Some will do ten, some would do twelve to get overtime. Usually, there are three shifts. You have the morning shift, which is 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM. You have a 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM. You have a 10:00 PM to 5:30 AM.
What misconceptions do people have about your career?
A lot of people think anesthesia techs, especially on the East Coast, are limited in their knowledge as far as knowledge for the medication, knowledge on monitoring the hemodynamics. The techs are clinical but since I’ve been on the East Coast, that’s not how they do things here. Mainly anesthesia techs do stocking and turnovers and that’s it. In the Midwest and the South and the West Coast, techs are more clinical. They start IVs. Some can even place arterial lines. That’s more of an invasive blood pressure.
That’s not always easy to do.
No, it’s difficult at times.
There’s definitely a misconception about what certain technologists can do based on what kind of schooling they went to or where they went to school.
The requirements now, you have to have at least a two-year degree to become certified. There is still room for someone to become a tech but they won’t be able to get certified. They can learn the job and some of the clinical aspects of the job but there will be more of a technical person like troubleshooting the anesthesia machine, the airway, the fiber optic machine, they learn those qualities of the job and not so much of the clinical aspect.
I want to definitely get into the education aspect of being an anesthesia tech. Before we do, I want to ask what are some of the rewarding parts of the job that you find for yourself?
The biggest thing is sometimes when you have a routine surgery. You don’t see the reward in that you’d be like, “We did this case, the patient is fine,” and that’s good. However, when you end the trauma situation where you have a patient coming into the OR almost dead and you work together as a team and you collaborate, you see the resident and the attending and then the tech is there. We all play a role in communicating with each other to save this patient. When we have those people where we perform CPR on them, once they come into the OR and they walk out alive or they make it, sometimes we don’t get to see the reward out there. It’s like, “We saved them but we don’t know if they’re going to live. When we follow up on a patient and realize that they are doing well or have been discharged from the hospital, it’s a rewarding thing. Also, to be a part of something amazing as to how medication could keep a patient alive while their body is open and the surgeons are making repairs to the body, it’s an amazing thing to see and be a part of and to have that knowledge.
That’s interesting because the anesthesia techs that I’ve been around over the years have not been as involved as you have described. Was there an instance where you remember a case that left an impression upon you?
I have several. This is like a chaotic night. It was a very crazy night. I was the night weekend tech back at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Usually, our night team has three residents and one attending. We have an attending our call and everything. One night, we got slammed with cases. We had two traumas coming. We know they were already active. The attending and the resident got called to the floor to do emergency intubation. Maybe 10 to 15 minutes after they left, they called another trauma over the overhead. It was crazy. When they called it, they were throwing the patient in the OR. They gave us short notice. The patient is in the room. This patient was stabbed by a knife on the right side of their chest. I get into the room, I start hooking a patient up. I’m trying to make sure I get the patient prepared for the anesthesiologist.
We started hooking the patient up, put all the monitors on. I started pre-oxygenating him. As I was moving a patient over to the bed, I started drawing up the Propofol in a 20-cc syringe. I drew up a couple because sometimes you don’t know these patient’s drug history or medical history. I did that first and then hooked them up to the monitors, pre-oxygenated them and then the attendant walked into the room. I was happy because I was scared. Time was of the essence. The patient recovered. All of our patients that night did well. That was the scariest and most rewarding night of my career.
You felt because you had a lot of things prepared and ready to go, it saved a lot of time. When the anesthesiologist came in to start and administer the medications, it was in a timely manner because you had stuff ready. You knew what to get ready too.
As a night tech, I set up my trauma rooms. Most of the time that consists of a Belmont, which is a rapid infuser. If the patient has a big blood loss, we can rapidly infuse blood into them. You have the paralytics that you have to put out, or ephedrine and everything. We always give two IVs. In case we get a peripheral, which is somewhere in the arm, the AC and then sometimes we do a central line.
It sounds like you like the trauma cases.
I love it. It’s exciting. Exhilarating. It’s fun. It’s not fun for the patient but it’s amazing to see everyone collaborate to save this patient. You see a lot of harmony in situations like that.
You’ve been part of it too. You have some of these patients that have good results. You’ve been part of those experiences, which is rewarding. How would you describe your work-life balance as an anesthesia technologist?
It’s a good work-life balance. It depends on the facility you work for because sometimes at my old facility, we had to take call a lot. We have a regular call. If someone calls out or if a lot of traumas come in or if we get a lot of cases at night, you call a ticket and help out. We also are on call for liver cases because it takes a lot for us tech to set that up. Also, cell salvaging, which is a process where we take the patient’s blood and put it back in the patient.
After it’s been processed and filtered. You do something a little different than the typical anesthesia technologist. You have a managerial role. What additional responsibilities do you have as a manager that you wouldn’t have as a typical anesthesia technologist?
I am responsible for my whole team, all the anesthesia technologists. I’m also responsible for making sure that we keep up the annual education. It’s like all of the in-services, even for the anesthesiologists and CRNAs. I set up in service for our Belmont, which is a rapid infuser because we have a lot of new residents now. A lot of them don’t know how to set that up. I’m also responsible for making sure that our material management supplies us with all of our essential items, which sometimes can be challenging. I’m dealing with different departments.
I have to deal with the pharmacy to make sure they get us all of our drugs. Also, CSPD, which is central sterile where they sterilize all of our instruments and things like that. It’s challenging, I have to do payroll. I make sure my techs get paid on time, which is important. Everyone needs their money. The hardest thing about the job is disciplining the staff when they make an error. The tech sometimes is slow on checking an expiration day. Sometimes when I do rounds, I find a lot of supplies that may expire. Some of the things are like, it’s not that bad but it’s a part of the job that is essential. Especially with medications, that can potentially harm or kill the patient.
What is the difference? We talked about this before we started but what’s the difference between an anesthesia technologist and an anesthesia technician? Is there any difference?
It’s a small difference. A technologist is more educated on pharmacy like how the drugs work, how to use a drug, what the drug is for. It teaches you how to calculate the drug mixtures. It’s not a big difference but it’s a little bit more of education in a more clinical aspect of the job. Technologists can do the IVs and are trained to do A-lines and to dress the scrub in during the central line and assist with the central line. A technologist can float the swan with the doctor. The technician has basic knowledge.
Is there a difference in schooling between a technician and a technologist?
Back in 2015, ASATT, who does the accreditation and hands out the certification, they decided to do away with anesthesia certified technician and now it’s certified anesthesia technologists. You still have the certified technicians but it was two levels where you had an option. That’s why now you have to go to a two-year college to be a technologist. With the technician, all you need was the experience, some type of patient care experience and you’ll get trained on the job.It’s an amazing experience to be part of collaborative efforts to save trauma patients. You see a lot of harmony in situations like that. Click To Tweet
Now, you cannot be an anesthesia technician anymore. Everybody has to be an anesthesia technologist.
Let me clarify. You can be an anesthesia technician, as a regular anesthesia technician but you can become certified.
The only certification as an anesthesia technologist. You can’t be a certified anesthesia technician.
How did you get into this?
I started off as an EMT. I was an EMT back in 2010. I started working in hospitals as well as an EKG tech.
Was this right after high school?
No. After high school, I went to college and I did the general courses. I was debating what I wanted to do, I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do. I got sick right after I graduated. I graduated in May and I was hospitalized in November the same year, I had gallbladder surgery. I removed all of it and I was in the hospital for eleven days. I caught pneumonia. It almost took me out.
You’re young. You look like eighteen years old.
I had a bad diet. I was eating lots of fried food, McDonald’s as a teenager.
You’re in Tennessee at this time?
Yes. I had a good nurse and I had a bad nurse. It was something that clicked at that time for me that I was like, “I want to be in this profession. I wanted to be a nurse at one point.” I went to an EMT school. I was like, “Let me do EMT and then I’ll work my way up.”
Emergency medical technician, right?
Yes. I did that. I got better first and I continued to go through college and do the general courses. I didn’t go to EMT school right away. It may have been like 1 or 2 years later. I went to EMT school, did that and then I worked for a private ambulance company. I didn’t like that because basically, what you do at a private ambulance company is that you go to nursing homes and transport patients from appointments or to dialysis or if a patient is sick, we’ll take them to the ER. It wasn’t fun for me.
What you’re saying is you’re not responding to emergencies.
During my clinical while I was in school, I worked for Memphis Fire Department where I volunteered. I was doing clinicals there. After I graduated, I asked the lieutenant if I could come every now and then to keep my skills up. That happened and it was fun. I got to do the emergency cases, gunshot wounds to car accidents and fires.
By the way, are you in college now?
You work as an EMT, you’re going to college and you’re also volunteering at the fire department.
That’s a lot of time.
It was. It was demanding, however, taking care of patients is a big passion of mine and being in those emergency situations, I learned I didn’t want to work with sick kids because I had a situation where we got a call and a kid got hit by a car. We made it to the same time as the firefighters and the kid was still under the car. Once they lifted the car, we got the kid and we worked on him. I blacked out. I don’t remember. I worked to take the child. It was amazing. I couldn’t remember everything. I was shocked. I shocked myself. Once we dropped them off, it was like a reality check like, “Did I do that?” I still don’t know to this day if that kid lived or died. He was in bad condition. I was doing all of this while in college working. I’ll do it on the weekends. I’ll do it like one day a week with the fire department to keep the skills up.
Here you are as an EMT. Did you finish college then?
I didn’t. I stopped school after that. I got into EKG monitor tech. I quit that job as an EMT in the private ambulance then I got into the monitor EKG tech. There I started learning EKG rhythms and all of that and how to measure the PR and all that good stuff. One day, I got tired of that. I saw a job posted for an anesthesia technician. It was a job fair the company is holding. I was like, “I’ll try out.” I had no idea what I was getting into. I have never heard of an anesthesia technician. I had the interview and we discussed the supplies. A lot of things were familiar to me like AT2, the blade to intubate. All of the things sounded familiar. I got into that. When I first started as an anesthesia tech, I was so frustrated all the time because I felt like I was being set up for failure. A lot of things on the job, you had to learn. No one could teach you unless you go through it. For most of the job, you have to experience it for yourself in order to learn. I challenged the test before 2015. I got my certification. A little after that, I graduated from college.
Why did you make the decision to go from an EKG tech to an anesthesia tech? What was the draw for you?
The EKG monitoring tech was too routine. It was boring to me. It ended up getting boring because you watch a patient heartbeat rhythm all night, all day, and you make a report. Some of the measurements can tell you if the patient is having some type of illness or some type of disease or something. It was boring. I was like, “I know I could do more.” Being an EMT to that, the EMT was more exciting. I have more hands-on with patient interaction. I was glad I made that transition because I’m happy with being an anesthesia technologist now.
Reflecting back, would you have done anything differently?
Looking back, I always said I would have done something differently. I would have focused more on my end goal. What I mean by that, when I first got my first experience with healthcare and wanting to be a nurse, I shouldn’t have taken those shortcuts. I thought the shortcuts would be better. At the same time, now that I look back, it helped me make me who I am now. I’ve used all of my skills now from being an EMT to the EKG monitoring tech and now anesthesia tech. I have this knowledge that I could bring to the job that somebody that went through a normal anesthesia technician program that some of the skills they may not have ever experienced. I feel like being an EMT prepared me for being a trauma technician, anesthesia technician. I was prepared. I wasn’t scared and it was more of second nature to me. I contradict myself but I feel like I don’t have any regrets because my experiences made me who I am and I’m proud of that person. At the same time, as a teenager, we get distracted. You think that other paths or avenues that you think is a shortcut can veer you off your path and make it a longer process for you.
What were you trying to do a shortcut to?
To be a nurse. I thought that the EMT will help me learn the basics and then continue on but then I got stuck doing that and lost the motivation to go to continue school because I started making a little bit more money. I was a little excited being young.
Do you think being a nurse down the line is something you’d be interested in doing?
Yes. I’m back in school now doing my prerequisites for nursing. I want to go to CRNA school and be a nurse.
As an anesthesia technologist, would you recommend this career to students?
Yes. This career could be rewarding especially for someone that doesn’t want to be too active with patient care but be somewhat active. In this job, you can learn a lot. You can get to know yourself. It can also be a stepping stone to other careers because you learn so much and then you get to see where you would like to be.Focus on your end goal. Some avenues that can look like shortcuts can veer you off your path and make it a longer process for you. Click To Tweet
Phil, where can readers go to reach you and learn more about you?
They can either reach out to you or they can follow me on Instagram. It is @Phils_Philosophy_. I’m a motivational speaker type of guy. I like to inspire through Instagram and social media.
Phil, thank you for giving us some backdrop of your career and a little bit about yourself. I appreciate it. I’d like to go through a bunch of questions so people get a little bit more information about you. This is very light-hearted. These are rapid-fire questions. It’s simple. Let’s keep it to one answer or a sentence. Places where you most want to travel to?
Paris, Ethiopia and Brazil.
What’s a country you’d be okay with never visiting in your life?
What’s for dinner tonight?
Salmon and a baked potato.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
What’s something you could eat for a week straight?
Big or small dogs?
What’s your ideal outside temperature?
Climb a mountain or jump from a plane?
Jump from a plane.
If you could get a yacht, what would you call it?
Finally, if you were stranded on a tropical island, what two things would you want with you?
Music, like a radio. I was going to say a pen and paper because I’m a writer as well but if I had to choose, it would be music and lotion. I hate dry skin.
Thank you for sharing, Phil. Thank you for joining me on this episode. We appreciate the background information and sharing your experiences.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Thank you for reading this episode of Health Careers with Dr. Marn. I enjoyed talking with Phil Hood about his career as an anesthesia tech. I especially like how he described how involved he is as a technician helping anesthesiologists. He is doing some important things, getting that procedure and anesthesia started, even in some life-threatening situations for the patient. He highlighted this unique role where he has a real direct impact on patient care. I’m happy he was able to participate in this episode. To learn more about this guest and other past guests, or if you’d like to reach out to me, visit HealthCareersWithDrMarn.com or HCWithDrMarn.com. I’ll catch you on the next episode.
- @Phils_Philosophy_ – Instagram
About Phillip Hood, Jr.
A certified anesthesia technologist who works at the Mount Sinai System as one of its lead anesthesia support coordinators.