Physician Anesthesiologists are easily the most underappreciated providers in the perioperative process. To begin with, they are the only physicians to care for the patient throughout her pre-, intra-, and post-operative phases. Each phase requires a seamless gear-shift while managing a different set of priorities and new decision trees. The anesthesiologist then drives that same vehicle between the ICU & the OR, pediatrics & geriatrics, and all across the APGAR and ASA score spectrums. The wealth of knowledge and depth of skills these tasks require leads authors to question whether physician anesthesiologists are, indeed, the last real generalists.
Many patients facing the physician anesthesiologist for the first time don’t even realize they are dealing with a physician at all. And regardless, they only know a tiny part of what that physician does for them. In his own study, Dr. Ferdinand Iannaccone found that:
”more than 90 percent of the patients he studied were aware that anesthesiologists ‘put patients to sleep,’ but fewer than half knew that the anesthesiologist also makes sure that patients are fit for surgery; monitors blood loss and provides transfusions, if needed; controls nausea and vomiting; and controls pain following surgery.”
And even if the patient does know who they’re dealing with and what they do, which patients will actually remember their anesthesiologist? After all, the best anesthesia is the kind that you don’t remember.
Hi! I’m an anesthesiologist. You may remember me from… let’s be real, you don’t remember me because I give you forget-me-drugs. I am pleasantly forgettable.
— Dr. Alyssa Burgart (@BurgartBioethix) January 20, 2019
The anesthesiologist’s primary goal is to keep the patient unaware –- unaware of the pain and of as much as the surgical experience as possible. Even if they wanted to write a note of thanks…who would the address it to?
Despite the minimalized appreciation and the forgetful nature of the anesthesia patient experience, physician anesthesiologists love what they do, and it shows. In a great article entitled, “What I love about being an anesthesiologist,” Edward R. Mariano, M.D. recognizes that “No one claps when the plane lands, just as no one expects any less than a perfect uncomplicated anesthetic every time.” Dr. Mariano recognizes that he wears a lot of hats in some of the most demanding environments, and that the satisfaction of the job comes from “providing a unique type of personalized medicine.”
Anesthesiologists are also leading the charge on the front lines of the battle with the Opioid Crisis. Addiction to opioids in the aftermath of managing severe and chronic pain has swept the nation. The anesthesiologist—the specialist in pain management—is the expert to turn to who can offer valid alternatives to opioids. Such alternatives as non-opioid medications, physical therapy, acupuncture, surgery, and injections or nerve blocks can make all of the difference in the world without the associated risk of addiction. There are even multiple high-tech methods now available to help counteract chronic pain, and guess where you can find education? At the American Society of Anesthesiologists website.
And so, as this is Physician Anesthesiologist Week (#PhysAnesWk19), Graphium Health is so glad to celebrate such a skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate group of providers. You all do so much for healthcare that goes unrecognized, and this week is well deserved. Thank you for all that you do, and keep up the good work!
The Graphium Health Team