Tag Archives: anesthesiology

PPE Considerations for Airway Management Personnel

Personal protective equipment (PPE) for personnel involved in advanced airway management in cases of known positive or suspected COVID-19 should not replace recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, the additional risk of exposure to healthcare personnel involved in advanced airway management for a disease with airborne transmission must be taken into consideration. Past experiences with variations in PPE during other major respiratory diseases in recent history have been published along with recommendations for the current COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have recommended a higher level of PPE or “enhanced” PPE for personnel involved in advanced airway management due to limitations of standard PPE, particularly neck and wrist exposure.

Use of an air filtration system, preferably an N95 mask, is recommended by CDC and anesthesia societies and is a minimum requirement for airway management personnel. Proper air filtration is a basic need for healthcare professionals caring for patients with airborne diseases. N95 fit testing should be prioritized for these healthcare professionals. For airway management personnel who do not successfully fit test, ideally a hooded Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) should serve as the alternative; otherwise, a CAPR respirator can be used if a hooded PAPR is not available.

Basic features of enhanced PPE for airway management personnel are IN ADDITION to CDC recommendations and may include:

  • Second layer of eye/face protection
  • Neck coverage
  • Second layer of long gloves

Enhanced PPE is not universally recommended by societies and other organizations. Advanced skills in airway management are a limited resource, and those with these skills require adequate protection. In addition, anesthesiologists are critical medical specialists who can provide perioperative and critical care as well as pain management during a surge in addition to performing endotracheal intubation when needed.

Implementation of these features will vary given the variability of available PPE between institutions and supply shortages worldwide. It is essential to train airway management staff as soon as possible to develop a local protocol that takes into account CDC and additional enhanced PPE recommendations above.  Each facility will likely develop its own application of enhanced PPE.

The following videos are being shared for educational purposes only. They represent only one example of applying enhanced PPE, and there will be many others. Creating local videos can help expand training at a facility without depleting available PPE supplies. Remember that each institution and practice will develop its own way to apply enhanced PPE for airway management personnel, and many variations can achieve the same goal.

VIDEO: Enhanced Airway PPE Donning (1:52)

VIDEO: Outer Layer Doffing (1:28)

VIDEO: Inner Layer Doffing (2:21)

VIDEO: COVID-19 Airway Management Simulation (1:44)

Other helpful resources:

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Being Essential in the Post-Normal Era

Traffic is non-existent. Schools are closed. Restaurants are only offering take-out and delivery. Parking lots at strip malls are empty on weekends. Only a limited number of people at a time are allowed inside the grocery store. 

Welcome to the post-normal era since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the scene in Northern California. 

One day we will look back at this time and realize how much it changed everything. Simple things like a handshake or sitting together with a colleague during a lunch break will hopefully never be taken for granted again 

The California Governor has issued a statewide order to shelter in place. It’s only natural that the husband and father parts of me consider staying home like everyone else. 

But I’m not like everyone else, and none of us in healthcare are. We are considered “essential,” which is why we continue to go to work day-and-night while the rest of our society shelters in place in a monumental effort to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19. 

I have always liked this blog by Dr. Kathy Hughes about working at hospitals around the holidays and being essential. Hospitals at that time of the year are actually festive places. It’s different now. There are no holiday potlucks in the ward lounges to bring people together. There is no celebrating. Yet, we all understand that we are needed and share the burden of being essential together. 

Our work as anesthesiologists has changed. We no longer perform elective surgeries in our operating rooms. The weight of our role as specialized physicians has shifted from perioperative and pain medicine to emergency response, critical care, and crisis management. We are at particularly high risk since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. Every time we are called to perform tracheal intubation in an infected or suspected patient who is coughing and having trouble breathing, we are staring down the barrel of a gun. 

Protecting ourselves is a priority because our expertise is a limited resource. If we get sick, we can’t help others, and we risk spreading COVID-19 to our families. Personal protective equipment or PPE is a necessity, and multiple layers are required by anesthesiologists and other airway management personnel given the high risk procedures we do in these patients. It takes time to put on PPE, but there can be no shortcuts when it comes to safety. SLOW IS SAFE, and we need to remember that there are no more emergency intubations in this post-normal era.

Being essential in the hospital is not limited to just the healthcare professionals of course. The engineers, the technicians, the housekeepers, the cafeteria and food service workers–they are the unsung heroes of the hospital during this pandemic. Without them, our facilities and our healthcare workers would cease to function. Whenever I see them, I thank them for the work they are doing to support us on the front lines of patient care. We share stories of how things used to be and give each other some encouraging words. 

It is surreal to get up, get ready for work, have a cup of coffee as part of my normal morning routine, drive through deserted streets, and walk into the hospital not knowing what the day will bring. We have a job to do, and that calling to help humanity drives us to keep coming to work. We chose medicine, but medicine chose us too.

This blog has also been featured on KevinMD.

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My Trip to Washington: Speaking Out Against Drug Shortages

From left to right: Daniel Teich (Fairview Pharmacy Services), Dr. Peter Adamson (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Senator Susan Collins, me, and Brian Marden (MaineHealth Pharmacy)

On November 5, 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in a Congressional briefing related to drug shortages at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) opened the session and co-sponsored the MEDS Act with Senator Tina Smith (D-MN). I was one of only two physicians on the panel and tried to represent the voice of clinicians involved in perioperative care and the patients we care for. Below are the notes from my presentation.

As a physician specializing in anesthesiology, this ongoing crisis of drug shortages in the United States is frankly terrifying.

Anesthesiology is a unique specialty within medicine. Our patients are the most vulnerable in the hospital. Patients under general anesthesia cannot advocate for themselves and trust us with their lives.

We do not know what the next drug shortage will be or how long it will last. This week it is prefilled syringes of lidocaine, a life-saving emergency medication we give in case of a dangerous heart rhythm. Two weeks ago it was phenylephrine, a routine medication we use to increase blood pressure when it goes down after inducing anesthesia.

Last year, we had complete shortages of common injectable opioids and local anesthetics used for numbing injections. This directly affected surgical patients in terms of anesthesia and pain management. For 3 months in 2018, we did not have the local anesthetic indicated for spinal anesthesia. We know this is the safest anesthetic for patients having certain surgeries. During this shortage, we used an alternative anesthetic in order to continue providing spinal anesthesia, but our patients experienced more side effects. The reasons for this shortage were complex and involved a limited number of manufacturers and quality issues.

Thankfully, the shortage of spinal local anesthetic ended. We do not know when or if the rest of our current drug shortages will end. All we know for sure is that there will be another one.

The predictably unpredictable cycle of drug shortages puts physicians in an impossible position. Medicine is a calling, and we physicians have sworn an oath to support the well-being of our community and humanity in general.

Not having access to the right drugs at the right time for every patient and being forced to use less acceptable alternatives, if any exist at all, represents a form of moral injury. Moral injury “is being unable to provide high-quality care and healing in the context of health care” and is now recognized as a contributor to the epidemic of physician burnout.

Listen to my interview with Paul Costello on SoundCloud.

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Regional Anesthesia Education and Social Media

At the 2018 annual meeting of the European Society of Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Therapy (ESRA), I was invited to give a talk on regional anesthesia education and social media.  In case you missed it, I have posted my slides on SlideShare.

After my session, I was asked by ESRA to highlight some of the key points of my lecture:

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My Reasons to Visit San Francisco for #ANES18

This year’s American Society of Anesthesiologists meeting (#ANES18) happens to be in my “neck of the woods”—one of the greatest cities in the world—San Francisco, California. Here are a few things you may or may not have known about San Francisco.

San Francisco is the biggest little city. At just under 47 square miles and with more than 800,000 inhabitants, San Francisco is second only to New York City in terms of population density. Despite its relatively small size, “the City” (as we suburbanites refer to it) consists of many small neighborhoods, each with its own charm and character: Union Square, the Financial District, Pacific Heights, the Marina, Haight-Ashbury, Chinatown, Little Italy, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, SoMa (South of Market), the Fillmore, Japantown, Mission District, Noe Valley, Twin Peaks, Castro, Sunset, Tenderloin, and others. This is probably why die-hard New Yorkers love it so much.

In the summer especially, San Francisco weather is somewhat unpredictable even when going from one side of the city to the other (part of the unique experience of visiting the city). “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” a quote often mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain (no one really knows who actually said it), is nevertheless often true. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, our local meteorologists provide daily forecasts for each of the region’s microclimates. The western side of the City along California’s coast is regularly plagued with fog while the eastern side of the City tends to be sunny most days of the year. It’s always a good idea to check the microclimate forecast before heading over to see the Golden Gate Bridge just in case it happens to be shrouded in fog. Average July temperatures in the City range in the 50s-60s Fahrenheit (no different than average November temperatures), so summer tourists often contribute to the local economy by buying “SF” logo sweatshirts for their walk across the City’s most famous bridge. Fortunately, #ANES18 is in the fall, and the weather near Moscone Center and the popular shopping area Union Square tends to stay reliably nice most of the year.

San Francisco is very family-friendly. If you’re debating whether or not to make a family trip out of #ANES18, my advice is to do it. Right around the convention center there are a number of attractions and events worth checking out. I highly recommend visiting the farmers market at the Ferry Building. While there, you can also take a ferry ride to a number of other destinations in the Bay Area (try Sausalito, a short trip that takes you past Alcatraz). For kids, there are parks within walking distance as well as the Children’s Creativity Museum, the San Francisco Railway Museum, Exploratorium, and the cable car turnabout at Powell and Market Street. Trips to Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, or the aquarium are a short taxi or cable car ride away. In addition, runners will love running up and down the Embarcadero which gives you a view of the Bay Bridge and takes you past the City’s many piers. Shoppers will be in heaven, and foodies will have to make the impossible decision of choosing where to eat for every meal.

But don’t take my word for it—come to #ANES18 and see for yourself!

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Social Media and Academic Medicine

I was recently interviewed by Dr. Alana Flexman (@AlanaFlex), Chair of the Scientific Affairs Committee for the Society for Neuroscience in Anesthesiology and Critical Care (SNACC), on the topic of social media and academic medicine.

Read the full interview here and join me for a live discussion on this topic at the SNACC annual meeting in San Francisco October 11-12, 2018.

For resources to help you get started on social media, visit my resources page.

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Why We Should Worry about Drug Shortages in Regional Anesthesia

The crisis of prescription opioid overuse and abuse has affected countries around the world, and anesthesiologists are well-positioned to make positive changes (1).  Even minor outpatient surgical procedures, and their associated anesthesia and analgesia techniques, can lead to long-term opioid use (2,3).  Patients who present for surgery with an active opioid prescription are very likely to still be on opioids after a year (4).

Anesthesiologists have been working to set up regional anesthesiology and acute pain medicine programs with careful coordination of inpatient and outpatient pain management to improve patient outcomes.  Regional anesthesia, especially with continuous peripheral nerve block (CPNB) techniques, has been shown repeatedly to reduce patients’ need for opioid analgesia (5).

Today, the crisis of drug shortages threatens to reverse the many advances in perioperative pain control that have been achieved.  Local anesthetics or “numbing medications” represent a class of drugs that is our strongest weapon against opioids.  These drugs (e.g., bupivacaine, lidocaine, ropivacaine) are currently in shortage.  Targeted injections of local anesthetic in the form of regional anesthesia eliminate sensation at the site of surgery and can obviate the need for injectable opioids (e.g., fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine) which also happen to be in short supply.  Local anesthetics are also the critical ingredient in providing epidural pain relief and spinal anesthesia for childbirth.  Without them, new moms will miss the first moments of their babies’ lives.

The following are potential ramifications of the current drug shortages affecting anesthesia and pain management on patient care:

Decreased Quality of Acute Pain Management

Regional anesthesia techniques, which include spinal, epidural, and peripheral nerve blocks, offer patients many potential advantages in the perioperative and peripartum period.  Human studies have demonstrated the following benefits: decreased pain, nausea and vomiting, and time spent in the recovery room (6,7).  Long-acting local anesthetics (e.g., bupivacaine, levobupivacaine, and ropivacaine) generally provide analgesia of similar duration for 24 hours or less (8-11).  These clinical effects of nerve blocks typically last long enough for patients to meet discharge eligibility from recovery and avoid unnecessary hospitalization for pain control (12).  CPNB techniques (also known as perineural catheters) permit delivery of local anesthetic solutions to the site of a peripheral nerve on an ongoing basis (13).  Portable infusion devices can deliver a solution of plain local anesthetic for days after surgery, often with the ability to titrate the dose up and down or even stop the infusion temporarily when patients feel too numb (14,15).  In a meta-analysis comparing CPNB to single-injection peripheral nerve blocks in humans, CPNB results in lower patient-reported worst pain scores and pain scores at rest on postoperative day (POD) 0, 1, and 2 (16).  Patients who receive CPNB also experience less nausea, consume less opioids, sleep better, and are more satisfied with pain management (16).  By using local anesthetic medication to interrupt nerve transmission along peripheral nerves, patients continue to experience decreased sensation as long as the infusion is running.  A shortage of local anesthetic medications makes it impossible for anesthesiologists to provide this potent form of opioid-sparing pain control for all surgical patients.  This also means that local anesthetics cannot be administered by surgeons as wound infiltration to help patients with incisional pain, and epidural analgesia for laboring women may not be universally available.

Increased Incidence of Postoperative Complications

Based on the study by Memtsoudis and colleagues, overall 30-day mortality for total knee arthroplasty patients is lower for patients who receive regional anesthesia, either neuraxial and combined neuraxial-general anesthesia, compared to general anesthesia alone (17).  In most categories, the rates of occurrence of in-hospital complications (e.g. all-cause infections, pulmonary, cardiovascular, acute renal failure) are also lower for the neuraxial and combined neuraxial-general anesthesia groups vs. the general anesthesia only group, and transfusion requirements are lowest for neuraxial anesthesia patients compared to all other groups (17).  The inability to offer regional anesthesia (e.g., spinal or epidural) to all patients due to lack of local anesthetics therefore represents a threat to patient safety.

Increased Risk of Persistent Postsurgical Pain

Chronic pain may develop after many common operations including breast surgery, cesarean delivery, hernia repair, thoracic surgery, and amputation and is associated with severe acute pain in the postoperative period (18).  A Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis reviewed published studies on this subject, and the results favor epidural analgesia for prevention of persistent postsurgical pain (PPSP) after thoracotomy and favor paravertebral block for prevention of PPSP after breast cancer surgery at 6 months (19).  Only regional blockade with local anesthetics can block patients’ sensation during and after surgery.  Without local anesthetics for nerve blocks, spinals, and epidurals, patients will experience greater than expected acute pain, require additional opioid treatment, and potentially be at higher risk of developing chronic pain.

Increased Health Care Costs

Approximately 31% of costs related to inpatient perioperative care is attributable to the ward admission (20).  Anesthesiologists as perioperative physicians have an opportunity to influence the cost of surgical care by decreasing hospital length of stay through effective pain management and by developing coordinated multi-disciplinary clinical pathways (21,22).  Regional anesthesia and analgesia can improve outcomes through integration into clinical pathways that involve a multipronged approach to streamlining surgical care (23,24).  Inadequate pain control can delay rehabilitation, prolong hospital admissions, increase the rate of readmissions (25), and increase the costs of hospitalization for surgical patients.

In summary, regional anesthesia and analgesia has been shown in multiple studies to improve outcomes for obstetric and surgical patients.  The current shortage of local anesthetics and other analgesic medications negatively affects quality of care and pain management and is a threat to patient safety.

References

  1. Alam A, Juurlink DN. The prescription opioid epidemic: an overview for anesthesiologists. Can J Anaesth 2016;63:61-8.
  2. Sun EC, Darnall BD, Baker LC, Mackey S. Incidence of and Risk Factors for Chronic Opioid Use Among Opioid-Naive Patients in the Postoperative Period. JAMA internal medicine 2016;176:1286-93.
  3. Rozet I, Nishio I, Robbertze R, Rotter D, Chansky H, Hernandez AV. Prolonged opioid use after knee arthroscopy in military veterans. Anesth Analg 2014;119:454-9.
  4. Mudumbai SC, Oliva EM, Lewis ET, Trafton J, Posner D, Mariano ER, Stafford RS, Wagner T, Clark JD. Time-to-Cessation of Postoperative Opioids: A Population-Level Analysis of the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Pain Med 2016;17:1732-43.
  5. Richman JM, Liu SS, Courpas G, Wong R, Rowlingson AJ, McGready J, Cohen SR, Wu CL. Does continuous peripheral nerve block provide superior pain control to opioids? A meta-analysis. Anesth Analg 2006;102:248-57.
  6. Liu SS, Strodtbeck WM, Richman JM, Wu CL. A comparison of regional versus general anesthesia for ambulatory anesthesia: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Anesth Analg 2005;101:1634-42.
  7. McCartney CJ, Brull R, Chan VW, Katz J, Abbas S, Graham B, Nova H, Rawson R, Anastakis DJ, von Schroeder H. Early but no long-term benefit of regional compared with general anesthesia for ambulatory hand surgery. Anesthesiology 2004;101:461-7.
  8. Casati A, Borghi B, Fanelli G, Cerchierini E, Santorsola R, Sassoli V, Grispigni C, Torri G. A double-blinded, randomized comparison of either 0.5% levobupivacaine or 0.5% ropivacaine for sciatic nerve block. Anesth Analg 2002;94:987-90, table of contents.
  9. Hickey R, Hoffman J, Ramamurthy S. A comparison of ropivacaine 0.5% and bupivacaine 0.5% for brachial plexus block. Anesthesiology 1991;74:639-42.
  10. Klein SM, Greengrass RA, Steele SM, D’Ercole FJ, Speer KP, Gleason DH, DeLong ER, Warner DS. A comparison of 0.5% bupivacaine, 0.5% ropivacaine, and 0.75% ropivacaine for interscalene brachial plexus block. Anesth Analg 1998;87:1316-9.
  11. Fanelli G, Casati A, Beccaria P, Aldegheri G, Berti M, Tarantino F, Torri G. A double-blind comparison of ropivacaine, bupivacaine, and mepivacaine during sciatic and femoral nerve blockade. Anesth Analg 1998;87:597-600.
  12. Williams BA, Kentor ML, Vogt MT, Williams JP, Chelly JE, Valalik S, Harner CD, Fu FH. Femoral-sciatic nerve blocks for complex outpatient knee surgery are associated with less postoperative pain before same-day discharge: a review of 1,200 consecutive cases from the period 1996-1999. Anesthesiology 2003;98:1206-13.
  13. Ilfeld BM. Continuous peripheral nerve blocks: a review of the published evidence. Anesth Analg 2011;113:904-25.
  14. Ilfeld BM. Continuous peripheral nerve blocks in the hospital and at home. Anesthesiol Clin 2011;29:193-211.
  15. Ilfeld BM, Enneking FK. Continuous peripheral nerve blocks at home: a review. Anesth Analg 2005;100:1822-33.
  16. Bingham AE, Fu R, Horn JL, Abrahams MS. Continuous peripheral nerve block compared with single-injection peripheral nerve block: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Reg Anesth Pain Med 2012;37:583-94.
  17. Memtsoudis SG, Sun X, Chiu YL, Stundner O, Liu SS, Banerjee S, Mazumdar M, Sharrock NE. Perioperative comparative effectiveness of anesthetic technique in orthopedic patients. Anesthesiology 2013;118:1046-58.
  18. Kehlet H, Jensen TS, Woolf CJ. Persistent postsurgical pain: risk factors and prevention. Lancet 2006;367:1618-25.
  19. Andreae MH, Andreae DA. Regional anaesthesia to prevent chronic pain after surgery: a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Anaesth 2013;111:711-20.
  20. Macario A, Vitez TS, Dunn B, McDonald T. Where are the costs in perioperative care? Analysis of hospital costs and charges for inpatient surgical care. Anesthesiology 1995;83:1138-44.
  21. Ilfeld BM, Mariano ER, Williams BA, Woodard JN, Macario A. Hospitalization costs of total knee arthroplasty with a continuous femoral nerve block provided only in the hospital versus on an ambulatory basis: a retrospective, case-control, cost-minimization analysis. Reg Anesth Pain Med 2007;32:46-54.
  22. Jakobsen DH, Sonne E, Andreasen J, Kehlet H. Convalescence after colonic surgery with fast-track vs conventional care. Colorectal disease : the official journal of the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland 2006;8:683-7.
  23. Macario A, Horne M, Goodman S, Vitez T, Dexter F, Heinen R, Brown B. The effect of a perioperative clinical pathway for knee replacement surgery on hospital costs. Anesth Analg 1998;86:978-84.
  24. Hebl JR, Kopp SL, Ali MH, Horlocker TT, Dilger JA, Lennon RL, Williams BA, Hanssen AD, Pagnano MW. A comprehensive anesthesia protocol that emphasizes peripheral nerve blockade for total knee and total hip arthroplasty. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2005;87 Suppl 2:63-70.
  25. Hernandez-Boussard T, Graham LA, Desai K, Wahl TS, Aucoin E, Richman JS, Morris MS, Itani KM, Telford GL, Hawn MT. The Fifth Vital Sign: Postoperative Pain Predicts 30-day Readmissions and Subsequent Emergency Department Visits. Ann Surg 2017;266:516-24.

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Why I Still Love Being an Anesthesiologist

When I first wrote “What I Love about Being an Anesthesiologist” for KevinMD in 2014, it was shared over 14,000 times!

Nearly 4 years later, I still love what I do – in fact, I think I love it even more now! My wife and I were at a party recently attended by healthcare and non-healthcare people. Of course, I was asked the inevitable questions, “What do you do?” and “What is it like?”

Here is how I answered:

Being a physician anesthesiologist is the honor of a lifetime, and it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. My patients rely on me to be their personal physician during surgery.  Under general anesthesia, they need me to be their voice because they can’t speak. They need me to act because they cannot protect themselves.

  • I have to understand my patients’ medical conditions.
  • I adapt my anesthetic plans to their needs.
  • I anticipate challenges that may take place during an operation.
  • I recognize problems early and prevent them when possible.
  • I react quickly and appropriately to make sure my patients make it through surgery safely with the best possible outcomes.

In the operating room, I cannot write an order and expect someone else to carry it out. I have to know how everything in my environment works, from top to bottom, so I can take the best care of my patients. I set up my own anesthetic equipment and supplies in preparation for surgery. I prepare all of the medications that I will personally administer to my patients.

I will admit that a big reason I chose this specialty was the people in it. Now my fellow physician anesthesiologists are my colleagues and mentors who continually challenge and inspire me.

I have the best job in the world:  helping patients through the stressful experience of surgery, relieving pain, and making new discoveries through research that will hopefully benefit future patients.

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Partnering with Patients for Patients

As an anesthesiologist, I am a physician who cares for patients when they are most vulnerable.  Under anesthesia, no one is able to call for help.  Every day patients have surgery in operating rooms all over the world, and it is the job of the physician anesthesiologist to watch over them, monitor their bodies’ responses to stress, breathe for them, provide them with pain relief, and fight for them when unexpected crises occur.  It is my job to calm the fears of my patients and families, listen to their requests, manage their expectations, and develop a plan that will provide them with the best outcome after surgery.

My belief in this connection between physicians, patients, and families as an anesthesiologist stretches into my administrative roles as well.  As Chief of the Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care Service and Associate Chief of Staff for Inpatient Surgical Services at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), I am grateful for the opportunity to work with an incredible team of physicians, respiratory therapists, surgeons, advanced practice providers, technicians, and administrative staff members who are focused on our mission to provide the highest quality Veteran-centered care by leading, educating, and innovating in anesthesiology and perioperative medicine.

In order to accomplish this mission, we need the best information available to guide our decisions and a diversity of perspectives to enhance our ability to train new clinicians and explore relevant research questions.  We have been fortunate to partner with our friends and colleagues in the Veteran and Family Advisory Council (VFAC) on a number of exciting projects.  First, our Service manages the simulation center at VAPAHCS and is responsible for coordinating simulation-based training for all clinicians.  Members of VFAC have been directly involved in simulation activities, even taking on active roles as the patient or family member in standardized training scenarios, to help us educate clinicians from various disciplines and all training levels.  Debriefing after these simulation exercises gives our clinical trainees and practicing clinicians the unique perspective of real patients and family members which is essential to their professional development as modern medicine continues to progress towards a model of patient-centered care.

Once a year, our Service organizes a faculty development retreat during which we reassess our mission, vision, strategic priorities, and tactics and work on one or two big ideas.  Two years ago in 2015, we invited our VFAC partners to join us at our annual retreat to brainstorm improvement ideas related to patient-centered care in the perioperative environment, intensive care unit, and pain management.  The general theme of the retreat addressed public perception and professional reputation of anesthesiologists and the specialty of anesthesiology.  Having members of VFAC present at the retreat to share their knowledge, opinions, and questions has inspired a few subsequent improvement activities and other projects to enhance the range of services that we provide to our patients and their families.

Finally, working together with VFAC, and knowing members personally, has allowed our clinical Service to solicit feedback on a regular basis.  Not all hospitals enjoy the level of access to a community of engaged patients and families like we do at VAPAHCS.  When we revised our preoperative education materials for patients, we went to VFAC for input.  When we were critically reviewing our website to update our online patient educational materials on anesthesia and perioperative care, we presented at the VFAC meeting to get the members’ feedback and suggestions.  With their help, we have been able to improve the accessibility and readability of our online content and provide our patients and their families with useful information that can help prepare them for surgery.

We are very grateful to VFAC for its priceless contributions to our healthcare system, our patients, and our Service.  We look forward to continued collaboration on future projects!

This blog has also appeared as a featured story on the VA Palo Alto Health Care System website.

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A New Era for Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine

It has finally happened–the inaugural class of ACGME-accredited Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine (RAAPM) fellowships has been announced, marking the beginning of a new era.

Congratulations to the following 9 programs that now are the first accredited fellowship programs representing this subspecialty in the United States:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  3. University of California, San Francisco
  4. Massachusetts General Hospital
  5. Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  6. Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  7. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai/St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital
  8. Duke University Hospital
  9. Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Accreditation is immediate and retroactive to the current 2016-17 academic year. This announcement represents a tremendous achievement in anesthesiology training and medical education in general.  Nearly 4 years ago, at our spring RAAPM fellowship directors meeting in 2013, I was appointed to lead the task force that would eventually make contact with the ACGME to request consideration for accreditation of our subspecialty fellowship programs. After submitting the 161-page letter to ACGME, we waited nearly a year to receive a response, and it was positive. The next 2 years were spent drafting the program requirements that would eventually be used as the basis for fellowship design and evaluation. This was an iterative process with multiple revisions based on solicited feedback and public commentary.

When the application period opened for the first time ever in October 2016, programs interested in applying had less than 2 months to prepare their program information forms and other materials, have them reviewed and approved by their local graduate medical education offices, and submit to ACGME in time for the 2017 spring review.

These 9 accredited programs have embarked on a brave new path, but it will not be an easy one. Their programs will be reviewed periodically to evaluate adherence to the program requirements and the quality of fellowship training, and deficiencies identified will need to be resolved or face loss of accreditation. However, their commitment to maintaining accreditation represents, in my opinion, a commitment to their fellows that they will provide a training experience that can be held as a benchmark for all programs.

We need our fellowship training programs to develop leaders in regional anesthesiology and acute pain medicine who can catalyze changes in healthcare that will improve patient outcomes and experience. Today, we have taken a huge step forward.

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