Composition of the anaesthesia team: a European survey

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Abstract

Background and objective

The anaesthesia workforce in Europe is understaffed and may not meet the growing demands of surgery. In many European countries where responsibilities can be identified and a varying degree of task substitution occurs, the anaesthesia service is provided by a team of physician and nonphysician anaesthesia members. This study assesses the availability, as well as the roles and functions, of nonphysician anaesthesia team members in European countries.

Methods

A survey was carried out to examine differences in anaesthesia practices and the strength of the anaesthesia workforce in Europe. A questionnaire, seeking information about perioperative anaesthesia input by nonphysician anaesthesia team members, was sent to all the national representatives of the Union of European Medical Specialists Anaesthesiology section and the International Federation of Nurse Anaesthetists.

Results

The responses to the questionnaire revealed that each European country has its own unique type of nonphysician anaesthesia team member and the roles of these vary substantially. Their levels of organisation vary from country to country and whereas nurse anaesthetists are often well organised, circulation nurses are not.

Conclusion

The present study demonstrated the heterogeneity and variety of anaesthesia practices throughout Europe. Standardisation of the training and practice of European nurse anaesthetists is desirable for patient safety and quality of care if they seek to work in more than one European country. Those countries that anticipate a shortfall in the supply of anaesthesiologists should examine working models from other countries that currently work with fewer physicians and more nurse anaesthetists.

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