A Little Attention Please: Anesthesia Procedures and Patient Communications
The U.S. anesthesiology market is expected to increase at high growth rates during the forecasted period of 2021-2025, climbing from $26.2 Billion to $37.04 Billion according to a recent report by Research and Markets. Supported by various growth drivers, such as growing geriatric population, increase in monitored anesthesia use, increasing chronic diseases and volume of surgeries, etc., anesthesia specialists now more than ever need to focus on intentional communications with patients and adhere to strict best practices before, during and after procedures.
No one likes anesthetic complications. The goal of every anesthesia specialist is to make anesthesia as safe as possible for each and every patient. Unfortunately, complications can occur during anesthesia, and when they do occur, there is often a rapid sequence of events that can put the patient in peril if not recognized and remedied quickly.
The most effective way to prevent complications is to establish anesthetic processes organized into checklists that ensure adequate preparation of the patient and equipment, minimize the chance for human error, and prevent omission of steps that could impact anesthetic safety. So, how do you incorporate all of this into the highest level of anesthesia care? Prepare, compare, be aware.
Prepare – As described in the 2020 AAHA Anesthesia and Monitoring Guidelines, the complete anesthesia period is composed of four distinct but continuous phases: preanesthesia, induction, maintenance and recovery. Patient needs for all four phases should be addressed before anesthesia is commenced to ensure patient safety. All anesthetic machines, along with the anesthetic monitoring equipment, must be prepared to function normally.
Compare – The best way to ensure optimal and thorough preparation is to have a checklist so that the anesthesia specialist can compare their actions to the checklist actions. Checklists save lives by ensuring that nothing that the patient needs is missed. A critical point to consider is that although standardized protocols are a good thing in general, every patient is still an individual and needs individual care. Comparing equipment setup and maintenance with checklists is likely even more important than using checklists for the patient since there is no standardized order for setting up and checking equipment.
Be Aware – Numerous factors have been shown to contribute to anesthesia-related complications (depth of anesthesia, body temperature, etc.), and one factor contributes significantly to decreased complications: monitoring of physiologic variables. Not a surprise, just a good reminder on the importance of being aware of the physiologic status of the patient.
Improving Patient Mood Helps Everyone
Happy patients are healthier patients, while conversely, stress can cause or contribute to illness. Patients also are less likely to tell you about their symptoms if they feel rushed or ignored, studies show. Building rapport and a relationship of trust can help them feel better about their care—and more likely to follow your instructions.
Research shows humor reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and strengthens the immune system. You may not be a comedian, but if you can get patients laughing – or at least smiling –you’ve improved patient mood.
Use music to help patients relax. Interventional pain management physician Jessica Jameson, a classically trained singer, sings to patients as she performs spinal injections. But you don’t have to be a singer to use music to calm your patients. Have relaxing music in the waiting room or play patients’ favorite tunes during times of anxiety, such as before or during procedures.
Be empathetic in your conversations with patients. Up to 75% of patients say their doctors lack empathy, according to one study. Show you care by asking patients about themselves—not just their medical concerns.
Sit down and make eye contact. Surveys show when doctors stand, patients feel rushed, so sit and face them. If you’re late, apologize. Use open body language, angling your body toward theirs. Make eye contact and use everyday, “non-jargony” language. Listen to their concerns and ask questions as needed.
Create rapport by sharing information about yourself. You may not be a natural conversationalist, but there are ways to show your humanity with patients, which can help them feel comfortable opening up to you. One way to build rapport and create a trust-filled, positive doctor-patient relationship is to share details about your life and your interests, such as your family or hobbies, while also soliciting information about theirs.
And don’t forget to also heal thyself. Physician burnout is linked to poorer patient outcomes. If you’re stressed and exhausted, you may be less likely to tune in to your patients and less able to provide the empathy and uplift they need. By placing a priority on your own mental well-being, you will be better prepared to help your patients feel better, both physically and emotionally.
It can be challenging at times to practice these skills consistently, but the rewards are worth the effort.
Anesthesia Best Practices: Prepare, Compare, Be Aware. aaha.org
9 Ways to Lift Your Patients’ Spirits. healthgrades.com