As I combed through the remainder of the email, I came to learn that a second-year resident had died in a car accident near his hometown.
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It was his name that gave me pause. Just a few weeks prior, I entered one of the campus cafeterias for a meal.
There, I noticed a young man sitting alone wearing a navy-blue jacket. The dialogue was short but delightful and lasted approximately five minutes in total. Before I left his table, I suggested we take a photo together to send to our mutual friends.
In the five minutes when we spoke, a connection was formed, a foundation of trust laid. Unlikely as it seemed at the time, this simple exchange was similar to the swiftly created bond that forms when an anesthesiologist talks to their patient prior to surgery.
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When I was a fourth-year medical student, I told my family and friends that I had applied to an anesthesiology residency program. Their responses varied.
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My answer: there is a unique responsibility born in that five-minute interaction prior to surgery. In those five minutes, I may have the ability to connect to a patient, gain trust and portray a sense of safety to a complete stranger in a way someone else may not. My communication skills could be the difference between someone entering the operating room with wild fear or measured ease.
I am not alone in feeling this way. This time restraint is a challenge that should be decorated for anesthesiology rather than seen as a reason to choose another specialty. A patient waiting in the preoperative area is possibly in one of the most vulnerable states of their lives. Patients may find themselves anxiety-stricken for the surgery itself, fearful regarding the aftermath, pained by the financial burden of the surgery and concerned for the risk of death.
Most encounters we have with our patients are brief and delicate. Those of you who are more experienced gamers, may find the challenges to simple as a 35yr old father my gaming skills have severely diminished in recent years.
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