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August 15, 2023

Protect Your People: Hazards Anesthesia Providers Face With Their Own Health

August 15, 2023

There are certain dangers in anesthesiology that are inherent in the practice. We signed up to practice anesthesiology with the knowledge that we would be around volatile gasses, have an increased potential for infection, and spend long hours in the OR. But after COVID-19, the importance of protecting yourself and your staff has been painfully highlighted. Being in high-stress working environments for long hours can negatively impact your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Many anesthesiologists report poor mental health, and depression, substance abuse, and suicide are occurring at increasing rates in the anesthesia community. We have to protect the people who sacrifice the most for patient safety and rehabilitation.

Looking for ways to improve your anesthesia practice? Contact us today.

Why is Working in Anesthesiology So Dangerous?

Regularly using some of the tools necessary to provide patient care can be an occupational hazard for the anesthesiologist. Operating environments themselves can be detrimental to health. The noise, darkness, exposure to chemical and bacterial agents, and inhalation of waste gasses each pose a new danger for the anesthesiologist. In the OR, the noise levels may reach 75-90 dB, almost reaching the same decibels as a busy highway. Working in an environment without sunlight causes vitamin D deficiency. Chronic exposure to anesthetic gasses can cause oxidative stress, leading to drowsiness, headache, fatigue, memory impairment, and difficulties with judgment and coordination. Not only is this dangerous during a procedure, it can have a deleterious effect on the provider's life. 

Anesthesiologists' Mental Health Problems

With each new innovation in anesthesia, the responsibilities of providers increase. This understandable mental pressure amplifies all other environmental hazards of working in anesthesia. Enduring long hours in stressful working environments with constant shift changes and strict wage policies can lead to job dissatisfaction and, ultimately, poor performance. This mental distraction from the task at hand can cause accidents with costly consequences. 

Emotionally, anesthesia providers face challenges in supporting and maintaining their own well-being. This comes from a misunderstanding of the challenges that anesthesia providers face, both from their colleagues and the general public. Undergoing the emotional load of caring for patients can be more for the anesthesiologist who is there with the patient well before the procedure and sometimes long after. Anesthesia providers must work in this environment habitually, which can inadvertently lead to a decline in the health of the provider. 

How to Minimize the Hazards of Working in Anesthesiology

Many other occupations that put their employees in harm’s way offer increased hazard pay. While there are modifying units in billing that can adjust rates according to the procedure, they often don’t actually reflect the risk involved. A change in this system would do a great deal to show anesthesiologists that the work they perform is valuable. Indeed, a cultural shift, in general, would increase respect shown to anesthesia providers and thus increase their mental well-being. 

Additionally, offices offering regular work assessments to their employees with the opportunity for conversation and feedback could mitigate some of the work environment issues that seem to plague the anesthesia community. Avoiding overwork at all costs should be a priority for anesthesia providers, both for the health and safety of the patient as well as of the anesthesiologist. Some of the aspects of the anesthesiologist’s environment won’t be able to change quickly, but more compensation, recognition, and basic care are needed to navigate the risks of the profession and minimize the hazards of working in anesthesia. 

Overwhelmed in managing your practice? We’re here to help. Contact us today.

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