Time is often essential for medical care, and anesthesiologists are no strangers to working on the front lines. Even before the pandemic, the anesthesiologist did so much more than administer sedatives for surgery. Some of the most versatile and vital clinicians are anesthesiologists, which is why we celebrate their work each year.
Physician Anesthesiologist Week encourages clinicians, their colleagues, and friends to raise awareness about the specialty and how it’s changing the face of healthcare today. During the seventh annual Physician Anesthesiologist Week, we look at the anesthesiologists' crucial role in managing COVID-19.
The Anesthesiologist's Unique Skill-Set
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of having intensivists on staff to administer critical care. The virus takes a significant toll on the patient's heart and lungs, causing them to deteriorate rapidly in some cases. Marc Sherwin, a physician anesthesiologist in New York, says that working on the front lines felt like a natural transition.
Anesthesiologists are experts in critical care and rapid response to save a crashing patient. They are also incredibly well-versed in pulmonary physiology, so they can quickly detect when a patient's health is declining.
Intubation is a crucial part of what anesthesiologists do and why they are critical in the fight against COVID-19. When a patient can no longer breathe on their own, it’s the anesthesiologist that’s called to administer life-saving oxygen. It's a risky procedure for both the patient and the physician. If not done carefully, the patient will experience more pain than necessary, and the anesthesiologist risks becoming infected with the virus.
They are also present to comfort patients who aren't allowed to have any visitors. According to Dr. Sasha Shillcut, sometimes the anesthesiologist is the last person the patient speaks to or sees, leaving practitioners vulnerable to adverse mental health issues.
How Anesthesiologists Are Changing Healthcare Staffing
Today, there is a massive shortage of intensivists in the healthcare industry. In April of 2020, HealthLeaders Media detailed a nationwide shortage of nearly 8,000 critical care physicians. New York was the first state to experience a widespread COVID-19 outbreak, and clinicians from around the country answered the call to keep the state's intensive care units running.
States with less intensivist staffing will require more assistance as COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise. Rural areas, particularly ones with higher minority populations, need the most help. One study found that 90% of COVID-19 cases in the United States were traced back to rural areas.
To combat these numbers, VISTA shifted its efforts to help the Navajo Nation in Tuba City, Arizona. Our agency presented, credentialed, and scheduled 41 experienced intensivists across eight states in 2020 to aid at-risk communities.
Clinicians, including anesthesiologists, were stationed in Urgent Care, Emergency Care, General Hospital, Pediatrics, and more. Overall, our agency served over 200,000 Navajo families, with over 81,000 logged clinical hours.
Because of their critical and chronic care experience, anesthesiologists are in high demand nationwide. VISTA works with healthcare systems across the country to place anesthesiologists where they’re needed most. For a list of anesthesiologist openings in all 50 states, refer to our online job board.