How do we make patients our ambassadors?

  • Hertzberg, Linda, MD, FASA
| Mar 17, 2013

Ten things you should know about anesthesia…

If this sounds a bit like an article one might read in the popular press or a “women’s magazine,” that’s intentional. As professionals and individual physicians, we don’t necessarily do a good job of promoting ourselves and the great things we do each and every day for our patients.

The CSA is embarking on a major PR campaign and has engaged a firm to work with us on this initiative. There will be more information coming shortly about this in a future CSA Online First by Karen Sibert, MD. In the meantime I’d like to challenge you, the CSA members, to become public relations ambassadors for the medical specialty of anesthesiology and help your patients become ambassadors for anesthesiology as well.

So what are the ten things we want our patients to know about anesthesiologists and anesthesia? We each could make an individual list, and I suspect that those lists would be remarkably similar.

Here’s my list:

1.    I am your personal physician and your advocate in the operating room.

2.    As an anesthesiologist, I am the physician responsible for overseeing your care—preparing you medically for surgery, and looking after you during surgery and in the post-operative period. I work closely with your primary physicians, specialists, surgeons, hospitalists and nurses.

3.    You should know who is providing your anesthesia care in the operating room. Anesthesiologists are physicians with medical training in the specialty of anesthesiology. As such, we are uniquely placed to assess your medical needs as those relate to the care we provide for you in the operating room. There may be other members of the anesthesia care team who will work under my medical direction, and these individuals and their qualifications will be identified to you.

4.    I will work with you to design a plan for your anesthesia care that is tailored to you, your personal health situation, your procedure, and your choice. This may include general anesthesia, regional (spinal or epidural) anesthesia, or nerve blocks.

5.    There are risks to anesthesia; they may be specific to the type of surgery you’re having, or specific to any underlying health problems you may have. It is my job to do everything professionally possible to minimize those risks to you.

6.    I am there to keep you safe while you are having anesthesia during your procedure. Anesthesia has a wonderful safety record, and this is because of advances in the field—safer medications, better monitoring—that originated from research by anesthesiologists.

7.    I (or a member of the anesthesia care team) will be there with you the entire time, watching every beat of your heart and every breath you take.

8.    Anesthesiologists are pain management specialists. There are a variety of modalities to manage pain after surgery including epidurals, nerve blocks, intravenous or oral pain medication. The most appropriate method of pain management will be discussed with you and tailored to your needs, based on the type of procedure you are undergoing.

9.    Postoperative nausea and vomiting are sometimes a side effect of anesthesia. There are ways to minimize the possibility of nausea and vomiting with medications that I will be giving you preemptively as part of your anesthetic care. Should nausea and vomiting occur postoperatively, it will be treated promptly.

10.  There is a way for you to contact me should any questions or concerns arise about your anesthesia care. Here is that information.

These are but a few of the things we can tell our patients each and every day so that they understand who anesthesiologists are and what we do. I challenge you to create your own lists, share ideas with your partners and the CSA, and find ways to become ambassadors for the medical specialty of anesthesiology when speaking with your patients. 

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