All posts by ermariano

The Problem of Burnout in Anesthesiology

I have written previously about what I love about being an anesthesiologist and why I still love being an anesthesiologist after all these years.

Recent articles have drawn attention to the pervasive problem of burnout among anesthesiologists, and the numbers are alarming. The overall prevalence within anesthesiology is approximately 60%, and this rate varies by subspecialty with pain physicians being at highest risk.

Our writing group has published two letters in the Journal of Clinical Anesthesia that offer additional perspectives and highlight important work on this subject: “A field on fire: Why has there been so much attention focused on burnout among anesthesiologists?” and “Fighting burnout in the COVID-19 era is a family matter.”

The previously-published studies by Hyman et al and Afonso et al report data collected prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While anesthesiologists were hailed as frontline heroes worldwide for their roles in the emergency response, airway management, and critical care of COVID-19 patients, their lives and their careers were also completely disrupted.

At work, anesthesiologists had to deal with confronting a previously unknown and highly transmissible respiratory pandemic, long hours and uncertain schedules, new personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols and PPE shortages, quarantines, and frequently-changing guidelines. Shelter-in-place orders led to school and office closures which added the stressors of working from home and virtual schooling on top of pandemic parenting, and women anesthesiologists were disproportionately affected.

Moving forward, the ongoing assessment and mitigation of burnout among anesthesiologists will take dedicated effort and leadership. Our letter recommends periodic evaluation of work-related risk factors and check-ins with anesthesiologist team members. Further, recognition of the challenges to work-life integration imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic warrants implementation of reliable interventions that may prevent the same issues from happening again in the future.

In addition, it may be more appropriate to promote wellness at the family level, rather than simply the individual level, because anesthesiologists cannot reasonably focus on their important physician roles when there are concurrent and competing stressors at home.

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Why physicians and researchers should be on twitter (Updated)

I am an academic physician who specializes in anesthesiology, a clinical researcher, and an educator. So why am I on Twitter?

Global Interaction:  Through Twitter I interact with people from around the world with similar interests. Participating in international Twitter chats like #healthxph or #hcldr can foster innovative ideas that may lead to research questions, collaborations, or other opportunities. Through Twitter, I was invited by Dr. Mary Brindle, pediatric surgeon and Director of the Safe Surgery Safe Systems Program at Ariadne Labs, to participate in an international collaboration to develop tools for modifying and implementing the World Health Organization’s Surgical Safety Checklist.

Search Optimization:  On multiple occasions, I have found research articles that my traditional PubMed searches have missed through the tweets posted by colleagues. I have even been able to relocate certain articles faster on Twitter than PubMed when I know they have been tweeted. Researchers can think of hashtags (starting with “#”) essentially like keywords in the academic world.  I periodically check #anesthesia#meded#pain, and #regionalanesthesia for new articles related to my research interests.

Lifelong Learning:  Today, it is impossible to keep up with the thousands of new articles published per year in my own specialty, not to mention medicine in general and other topics of interest outside of medicine. Through Twitter, I follow journals, professional societies, and colleagues with similar interests, creating my own learning network. I have also been following leadership coaches and healthcare executives for my own professional development. I honestly feel that my breadth of knowledge has increased beyond what I would have acquired on my own thanks to Twitter.

Fighting Misinformation: I have spoken previously about why I think physicians need to be where the people are, on social media, in order to fight misinformation. Physicians are still well respected in society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted the importance of voices that stand up for facts and science. Physicians and researchers on social media have been actively working to promote public health measures including mask wearing as well as support the safety and science of the new vaccines against COVID-19.

Research Promotion:  As a clinical researcher, my hope is that my study results will ultimately affect the care of patients. Sadly, the majority of traditionally-published scientific articles will not be read by anyone besides the authors and reviewers. Through Twitter, I can alert my followers when our research group publishes an article. I also get immediate feedback and “peer review” from colleagues around the world. Not surprisingly, articles that are highly tweeted are more likely to be cited later in future publications.

Naturally you may ask:  “How does Twitter fit into my career?” Some of the benefits that Twitter offers doctors have been described previously by Dr. Brian Secemsky and Dr. Marjorie Stiegler among others.  

This thread below by Dr. Tanya Selak provides a great overview of Twitter for physicians and scientists with excellent examples and references.

I’ll admit that getting started is intimidating, but I encourage you to try it if you haven’t already. I promise that you won’t regret it, and chances are that you’ll be very happy you did. The truth is that you don’t have to tweet anything at all if you don’t want to. Up to 44% of Twitter accounts have never sent a tweet. Of course, to be a physician actively engaged on Twitter requires respect for patient privacy and professionalism. I recommend following Dr. John Mandrola’s 10 rules for doctors on social media.

If you’re still too worried to take the leap, I have put together a list of social media resources for your review. At least sign up, reserve your handle, and observe.

Remember: observation is still a key part of the scientific method.

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7 Guiding Principles for Acute Perioperative Pain Management

I had the privilege of co-chairing the 2021 Pain Summit hosted by American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). In the months preceding the summit, ASA physician volunteers and staff as well as representatives from 14 other surgical specialty and healthcare organizations worked towards achieving consensus on a common set of principles to guide physicians and other clinicians who manage acute perioperative pain.

These 7 proposed principles are:

  1. Conduct a preoperative evaluation including assessment of medical and psychological conditions, concomitant medications, history of chronic pain, substance abuse disorder, and previous postoperative treatment regimens and responses, to guide the perioperative pain management plan.
  2. Use a validated pain assessment tool to track responses to postoperative pain treatments and adjust treatment plans accordingly.
  3. Offer multimodal analgesia, or the use of a variety of analgesic medications and techniques combined with nonpharmacological interventions, for the treatment of postoperative pain in adults.
  4. Provide patient and family-centered, individually tailored education to the patient (and/or responsible caregiver), including information on treatment options for managing postoperative pain, and document the plan and goals for postoperative pain management.
  5. Provide education to all patients (adult) and primary caregivers on the pain treatment plan, including proper storage and disposal of opioids and tapering of analgesics after hospital discharge.
  6. Adjust the pain management plan based on adequacy of pain relief and presence of adverse events.
  7. Have access to consultation with a pain specialist for patients who have inadequately controlled postoperative pain or at high risk of inadequately controlled postoperative pain at their facilities (e.g., long-term opioid therapy, history of substance use disorder).

This is the first project from this new collaborative, which focused on the adult surgical patient, and there are already plans for future projects. The participating organizations are:

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons
  • American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American College of Surgeons
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Society of Breast Surgeons
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons
  • American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
  • American Urological Association
  • Society of Thoracic Surgeons

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Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Fellowship Interviews

Guest authored by Jody C. Leng, MD, MS, and Kariem El-Boghdadly, MBBS, BSc (Hons), FRCA, EDRA, MSc. Dr. Leng is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and is the Director of Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. Dr. El-Boghdadly is a consultant anaesthetist and the research and development lead for anaesthesia and perioperative medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and is an honorary senior lecturer at King’s College in London.

The Covid-19 pandemic has normalized virtual everything. For both interviewers and interviewees, participating in virtual interviews for subspecialty fellowship programs has required major adjustment. We have summarized some key lessons we have learned in preparing for our second year in a row of virtual regional anesthesiology and acute pain medicine fellowship interviews in the following infographic.

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#HerTimeIsNow: Be an Ally!

Today is the last day of #WIMMonth, but supporting #WomenInMedicine doesn’t stop today!

Everyone should sign this petition at Change.org.

Deans, Chairs, and other healthcare leaders can go even further by reading this pledge and signing on.

I have been promoting the #HerTimeIsNow campaign led by the inspirational Dr. Julie Silver throughout the month of September. This campaign represents a collaboration between the American Medical Women’s Association, She Leads Healthcare, and Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM).

There is still so much work to be done to achieve gender equity in academic medicine, especially for underrepresented minorities.

Read the full #HerTimeIsNow report.

Men in medicine, particularly those in leadership positions in academic departments, editorial boards, and professional societies, have a huge role to play as allies. Here is my full quote from the report:

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We Still Have an Opioid Epidemic

COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

In the midst of this pandemic, we still have an opioid epidemic. It is not one thing unfortunately, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe three distinct waves of opioid-related overdose deaths.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Given the complexity of the opioid epidemic, we have to keep working within our spheres of influence. For those of us in anesthesiology, that means focusing on surgical patients: improving their outcomes and providing effective perioperative pain management along with opioid stewardship.

Dr. Chad Brummett and his colleagues at Michigan OPEN have been leading the way in procedure-specific opioid prescribing recommendations. Their process, which takes into account data from the Collaborative Quality Initiative (CQI), published studies, and expert input, specifically focuses on the perioperative care of patients who are not taking any opioids prior to surgery.

Continue reading We Still Have an Opioid Epidemic

Through multimodal analgesia, we prevent and treat pain in a variety of ways without depending solely on opioids.

At our institution, we offer patients regional anesthesia and have been able to decrease the amount of opioid pills that patients are given when they leave the hospital by basing the prescription on how much they use the prior day. Patients participate in this process, and we give them clear instructions on how to safety taper their opioids at home.

As a representative of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), I have been able to collaborate with surgical societies such as the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to develop pain management recommendations and toolkits that emphasize multimodal analgesia, use of regional anesthesia techniques for targeted non-opioid pain management when it is available, and opioid safety in the hospital and at home.

ASA-AAOS Pain Alleviation Toolkit

I also represent ASA as a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Action Collaborative Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic. The first discussion paper from the NAM pain management workgroup was released on Aug 10: Best Practices, Research Gaps, and Future Priorities to Support Tapering Patients on Long-Term Opioid Therapy for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain in Outpatient Settings. This paper highlights best practices in opioid tapering and identifies evidence gaps to drive future research.

Despite the massive amount of resources, human effort, and time dedicated to the fight against COVID-19, we have still managed to make progress in decreasing opioid-related risk in the perioperative period. However, there is still a lot of work left to do, and our patients are depending on us.

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A Year Ends and a New One Begins

This academic year was truly like no other.

At the end of July, we graduated three new physician experts in regional anesthesiology and acute pain medicine (RAAPM), and I could not be more proud of them! From our welcome party in the summer of 2019 to a year’s worth of teaching sessions, socials, and medical missions to the opening of the new Stanford hospital, the #COVID19 pandemic and #BlackLivesMatter movement – what a year for our amazing grads! Check out this fantastic graduation video from Dr. Jody Leng:

Our graduating fellows surprised me with the honor of being their Teacher of the Year along with Dr. Ryan Derby! It is such a privilege to be part of our fellows’ training every year and see them grow into physician consultants with RAAPM expertise.

Our new fellows are off to a strong start and are now officially part of our Stanford RAAPM family! If you are interested in learning more about our fellowship program, please visit our fellowship website and contact me with any questions.

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Congratulations to Our Newest Anesthesiologists

2020 is a unique graduation year for all of our anesthesiology residents and fellows due to COVID-19, but never before has the role of anesthesiologists been more relevant. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has prepared this special graduation message so programs can incorporate it into their virtual ceremonies, and it features a very special commencement speaker: Dr. Jerome Adams, the Surgeon General of the United States!

Link to graduation video: https://bit.ly/3eMg5ET

Nearly all of these physicians who are just starting their careers specializing in anesthesiology have completed 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 4 years of internship and residency plus 1 or more years of fellowship training for many. Hopefully this message will help our newest graduates, their families and friends, and their teachers and mentors recognize and commemorate this important milestone in their lives.

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Being a Positive and Authentic Voice

“The key is to not reflexively get defensive, but to treat people on social media as you would treat them in real life.”

Season 2 Episode 33: Being a Positive and Authentic Voice with Dr. Ed Mariano 

Drs. Shillcutt and Mariano get real and talk: 

  • Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic information overload  
  • Discussing hard topics on social media 
  • Being a positive voice for marginalized groups 
  • Being a “Chief Cheerleader”  
  • The key to joy at work 

In this episode of The Brave Enough Show, I had a chance to speak with host Dr. Sasha Shillcutt about a variety of topics including #HeforShe, leadership, and maintaining a positive voice on social media. Enjoy!

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Beyond COVID-19: Stand Up for Veterans Having Surgery

Our Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to defend our freedoms. Now it is our time to defend them.

Many people, even those who work in the operating room every day, take safe anesthesia care for granted. There has been growing pressure during this pandemic to remove physician supervision of nurse anesthetists with the latest threat coming from within Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare. For our Veterans, our heroes and arguably some of the most medically complex patients, having a physician in charge of anesthesia care at hospitals where anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists work together as a team makes the most sense.

Having a team with members who train differently and have different perspectives can only benefit the patient; anesthesiologists are physicians who draw on their medical training while nurse anesthetists bring valuable nursing experience. If you were a patient having surgery, wouldn’t you want an anesthesiologist directly involved in your care and leading the anesthesia team? If the answer is yes, please send your comments to Safe VA Care and let your elected officials know by contacting them.

Continue reading Beyond COVID-19: Stand Up for Veterans Having Surgery

Providing anesthesia is often compared to flying a passenger airplane, and the anesthesia care team model is like having both a pilot and a co-pilot. 

Who thinks flying has become so safe that we no longer need the pilot? Seconds count in flight, and they count just as much in the operating room when a patient’s life is on the line. 

In 2016, the VA rejected independent practice for nurse anesthetists after careful consideration, but this decision was recently overturned by a memo citing the COVID-19 pandemic. This memo abolishes the anesthesia care team model without giving Veterans a choice. Veterans having surgery may only get a nurse anesthetist without the option of having an anesthesiologist involved. If they were given the choice, however, I think our Veterans would choose an anesthesiologist or an anesthesia care team led by an anesthesiologist instead of a nurse anesthetist alone. We all should. In areas affected by surges of COVID-19, elective surgeries at the VA are stopped so there is no shortage of anesthesiologists.

Anesthesiologists all over the world have been fighting COVID-19 and have shown what they can do with their specialized medical training in a crisis. Although commonly referred to as “going to sleep,” general anesthesia is more like a complex drug-induced coma that can carry serious risk. If or when a crisis happens during surgery, every patient should have access to an anesthesiologist.

Modern anesthesiologists are physicians first but also scientists, educators, and patient safety advocates. Anesthesiologists specialize in relieving anxiety, preventing and treating pain, preventing and managing complications related to surgery, critical care, and improving patient outcomes. The average anesthesiologist spends nearly a decade in postgraduate education after college including medical school and logs 16,000 hours of clinical training to learn to apply the best available evidence in clinical practice. Academic physicians and scientists focused on anesthesiology are responsible for the discovery of newer and safer anesthetics, pain therapies, and technologies that are advancing healthcare throughout the world.

Anesthesia administration by non-physicians such as nurse anesthetists and certified anesthesiologist assistants is supported by the American Society of Anesthesiologists within the physician-led anesthesia care team model. To uphold the highest quality physician-led anesthesia care for our nation’s Veterans, please speak up by supporting Safe VA Care and reaching out to legislators. 

It only takes a minute to stand up for safety, but the consequences of not saying something may be serious and long-lasting.

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