A survey of the perceptions and knowledge of anaesthesia and anaesthetists among Grade 12 learners in four Johannesburg districts
Keywords:awareness, knowledge, learners, anaesthesia
Background: William Morton conducted the first anaesthetic in 1846 using ether. Since then, advances in pharmacology and technology have radically improved modern anaesthesia and have allowed for advancements in surgery as well. Despite the radical growth of this speciality, public knowledge about anaesthetists’ expertise and their role in healthcare delivery remains poor.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out between June and September 2021 among Grade 12 learners in four Johannesburg districts. A questionnaire consisting of 26 questions was used to assess the learners’ knowledge of the role of anaesthetists, their insight into anaesthesia as a speciality, and their interest in the field.
Results: Of the 595 learners who participated, 56.3% were aware that the anaesthetist administers anaesthesia in the operating room. However, 57.8% believed that nurses monitored the patient’s vital signs during surgery. Only 16% could identify the duties of the anaesthetist outside of the theatre environment. Overall, participants fared poorly, achieving an average score of 14% for the questionnaire. There was a statistically significant correlation between participants from a high socioeconomic background and awareness that the anaesthetist administers anaesthesia. Knowledge regarding the intraoperative duties of the anaesthetist was still poor, regardless of the socioeconomic background of the participant. Previous exposure to anaesthesia did not improve awareness about anaesthesia among the participants.
Conclusion: Awareness regarding anaesthesia and anaesthetists among participants is poor despite the radical growth in the field. Despite faring poorly, 58.5% of participants believed that good medical education could reduce the burden of healthcare costs and medicolegal consequences; while 70% of them would request an anaesthetist to provide information about their anaesthetic before surgery. Despite a lack of awareness, the participants displayed interest and willingness to learn about anaesthesia. Grade 12 learners would be a formidable target group for anaesthetic education campaigns, resulting in these learners becoming health savvy adults who can perpetuate this information in their communities.
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