Excellent clinical care as an anesthesia specialist has many components, with the ability to diagnose and treat acute, life-threatening perioperative abnormalities near the top of all anesthesiologists’ lists. How to measure overall clinician performance challenges all areas of medicine and is particularly difficult for hazardous and complex domains such as anesthesiology.
We are in an era of metrics for physicians, in which the government and hospital systems collect data to monitor quality and performance. Because the outcomes of most surgical anesthetics are quite uneventful, the occurrence of negative metrics for anesthesia performance will be rare – too rare to quantitate whether one doctor is “better” than another.
A more tangible approach is to look at the qualities that make physician anesthesiologists stand out as leaders.
Some of the top qualities include:
- Be smarter than the average anesthesiologist.Certain anesthesiologists pride themselves on keeping up with the new developments in medicine. The pursuit of knowledge is multifaceted and includes reading journals, attending lectures, attending conferences and habitually reading textbooks or Internet searches to learn. Interaction with other smart anesthesiologists is also essential.
- Be prepared. Every anesthetic is an opportunity to care for a patient at the highest level, and an opportunity to err. Preparation by planning anesthesia care, based on your training, experience, and knowledge is critical.
- Be friendly and personable.You have to get along well with surgeons, the nursing staff, the scrub techs, administrators and the patients. If your medical colleagues look forward to working with you because you’re a pleasant individual with a positive attitude, this bodes well. Polish your interpersonal skills.
- Learn how to wake up patients promptly.It sounds elementary, but there are mid-career anesthesiologists whose patients take too long to wake up. Don’t rely on the Post Anesthesia Care Unit nursing staff to complete the job of anesthesia wake up. Surgeons, nurses, and other anesthesiologists notice this, and the reputation of a practitioner who can’t wake a patient on time is no secret within a surgical suite.
- Learn to perform medical procedures at the highest level.Anesthesiologists are hands-on doctors and reputations are built and lost based on the manual skills of physician anesthesiologists.
- Enjoy your 10 minutes with each patient prior to surgery.The preoperative evaluation is a medical interview to review the history, physical examination and laboratory tests, and the evaluation is followed by a discussion of the anesthetic alternatives and risks. Those 10 minutes are much more than that, it’s your chance to get to know this person you’re about to render unconscious. Converse about their heritage, the geographical course of their life to date or their hobbies. The patient wants to like you and trust you, so take the time to connect with your patient before the anesthetic.
- Cultivate your speaking and writing skills.It’s difficult to rise among the ranks of your fellow physicians unless you’re a superior communicator. Speaking skills are essential in every doctor-patient conversation in selling yourself as a confident practitioner. Communicating with surgeons, nurses and techs before, during and after a surgical anesthetic is also important. To rise to leadership roles, you must eventually speak at committee meetings, clinical conferences, administrative meetings and possibly at community, county or state level medical meetings. Also, some physicians will find themselves authoring peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals, chapters in textbooks or opinion pieces in hospital, community, county, or state newsletters.
- Understand the economics of anesthesia practice, billing and reimbursement. Graduating residents still know very little about these topics, which puts them at high risk to accepting jobs with little upside for leadership. Attend the American Society of Anesthesiologists Practice Management Conference. Physician anesthesia leaders must become skilled businessmen and businesswomen as well as clinicians.
Can “experience” itself be a guarantee of excellence? In simulation studies involving residents, faculty and community anesthesiologists, some highly experienced personnel failed catastrophically in managing certain acute events, whereas some juniors performed exceptionally well.
Ultimately, the desire for safer care with greater accountability will be the main driver for health professions to strive for outstanding performance in their field.
12 Tips on Becoming an Outstanding Anesthesiologist. The Anesthesia Consultant, theanesthesiaconsultant.com
What Makes a “Good” Anesthesiologist? Anesthesiology, anesthesiology.pubs.asahq.org