IS BEING AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST STRESSFUL?
Stress in anesthesiology is a delicate matter. It is pertinent to state that anesthesiology is a stressful profession for many reasons. As a service profession, it deals with “temporary pharmacological intoxication,” using a number of blind methods and producing complications from time to time – a situation that may not be accepted by family members. The activities that anesthesiologists engage in each day can be very stressful. Literally, anesthesiology is filled with chronic stress. However, a lot of adverse events can superimpose and accentuate acutely the psychological condition of the professional in the theater or in the intensive care unit (ICU): a sudden fall in the patient’s health status, or misunderstandings with colleagues and family members, to name but a few.
The impact of stress on the wellbeing of the anesthesiologist is obvious. This includes high suicide rates, drug abuse, and the need for retiring early, plus the burnout syndrome. According to Professor Gurman, Editor-in-Chief of the ESA newsletter and Professor Emeritus, Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel, “our quality of life is often too poor.” They sleep less, they are overworked, they’re easily fatigued and this conquers their ability to make decisions and sound judgements.
Recently, a study was conducted on 39 anesthesiologists. The report of this study was published in (J ClinMoniComput 2012; 26:407). Results from the study showed that a major percentage of the subjects were seriously stressed. This was seen through the level of cortisol in their saliva. The subjects also had a tendency to burnout. In recent years, there has been much deliberation on the possible recommendations to be followed to improve the quality of life of anesthesiologists. Among these include:
- Early stress detection
- Improvement in human engineering to compensate for our daily activity
- Sense of humor must be developed by the anesthesiologist as a defense mechanism.
- Proper rest and free time.
However, what matters most is the creation of a healthy attitude towards professional stress.
According to Professor Gurman, stress is an integral part of the anesthesiologist professional activity. This is the reason why stress management should be an integral part of the anesthesiologist’s training and education.
From some global view point, attempts have been made to scientifically explore occupational problems faced by anesthesiologists, like Robert St. Thomas. However, not much scientifically proven data has been found. Also, highlighted stress issues such as interpersonal relations, highly competitive workplace, individual responses to stress and work-related issues, plus regional differences have been identified. That notwithstanding, a lot still has to be identified and explored locally.
Summarily, anesthesiology is a complex business. It is quite difficult to track a lot of things simultaneously – the right drug cocktail, the correct dosage, and working hand-in-hand with the rest of the medical team. Minor details like these are very essential.
And also, there’s that little risk that there might be a mistake along the way – perhaps the wrong drug cocktail, wrong dosage, or failure to communicate.
Neophytes may find it difficult to follow the detail, but consider the outcome if they don’t. It may result in complications such as coma, death, paralysis or debilitation.
However, you may not want to cast your mind on these worse scenarios. It is best to remain positive and focused on the task at hand and everything will go on just fine.