OPERATING ROOM BULLYING

the anesthesia consultant

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Does operating room bullying occur? You’re a freshly trained, recently hired anesthesiologist at a new medical center. In your first week on your job, an attending surgeon in the operating room intimidates you, making aggressive, sarcastic, and critical comments such as, “Are you trying to kill my patient? Have you ever done this before? Why is it taking you so long to get this patient to sleep?” or “My patient just moved. Can’t you give anesthesia better than that? Maybe I’d better ask for a different anesthesiologist.”

Does this ever happen? Unfortunately it does. What do you do?

Bullying in the medical profession is common, particularly during training years. A 1990 study (Silver HK, Medical student abuse. Incidence, severity, and significance, JAMA 1990 Jan 26;263(4):527-32) found that 46.4 percent of students at one major medical school had been abused at some point. By the time they were seniors, that number rose to 80.6 percent. In an Irish study, 30% of junior hospital physician responders to a questionnaire claimed to have been subjected to one or more bullying behaviors. (Cheema S, Bullying of junior doctors prevails in Irish health system: a bitter reality, Ir Med J. 2005 Oct;98(9):274-5).

The traditional medical education hierarchy of attendings > fellows > residents > interns > medical students sets up a pecking order where senior physicians pick on junior colleagues. One might paraphrase the phenomenon as “Sh__ runs downhill.” Younger colleagues are expected to do more “scut,” that is more paper work, computer work, contacting of consultants, chasing down lab and scan results, early rounds and late rounds on patients, as well as to sleep overnight in hospitals.

As physicians become more senior and exit training programs, their lifestyle improves and junior doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or registered nurses do more of their work. The tradition of condescending behavior toward those less trained may continue. When condescension crosses the line into disruptive or inappropriate behavior, it becomes a problem. Abused physicians, nurses, or techs can become angry or depressed, lose self esteem, and their physical and emotional health may suffer. Disrespect and bullying compromise patient safety because they inhibit the collegiality and cooperation essential to teamwork, cut off communication, and destroy team morale.

Joint Commission studies have shown that communication failure between health care workers is the number one cause for medication errors, delays in treatment, and surgeries at the wrong site. A 2004 study of workplace intimidation by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) (www.ismp.org/pressroom/pr20040331.pdf) found that nearly 40 percent of clinicians have kept quiet or ignored concerns about improper medication rather than talk to an intimidating colleague.Rather than bring their questions about medication orders to a difficult doctor, these health care personnel said they would preferred to keep silent. Seven percent of the respondents said that in the past year they’d been involved in a medication error in which intimidation was at least partly responsible.

In 2009 the Joint Commission began requiring hospitals to have a “code of conduct that defines acceptable, disruptive, and inappropriate staff behaviors” and for its “leaders [to] create and implement a process for managing disruptive and inappropriate staff behaviors.” The rationale for the standard states: “Leaders must address disruptive behavior of individuals working at all levels of the [organization], including management, clinical and administrative staff, licensed independent practitioners, and governing body members.”

Stanford University Hospital where I work has adopted such a Medical Staff Code of Professional Behavior (found online at medicalstaff.stanfordhospital.org/bylaws/documents/Code_of_Behavior).

Excerpts from this document include:

“Inappropriate behavior” means conduct that is unwarranted and is reasonably interpreted to be demeaning or offensive. Persistent, repeated inappropriate behavior can become a form of harassment and thereby become disruptive, and subject to treatment as “disruptive behavior.” Inappropriate behavior include, but are not limited to, the following: Belittling or berating statements; Name calling; Use of profanity or disrespectful language; Inappropriate comments written in the medical record; Blatant failure to respond to patient care needs or staff requests; Personal sarcasm or cynicism; Lack of cooperation without good cause; Refusal to return phone calls, pages, or other messages concerning patient care; Condescending language; and degrading or demeaning comments regarding patients and their families, nurses, physicians, hospital personnel and/or the hospital.

“Disruptive behavior” means any abusive conduct including sexual or other forms of harassment, or other forms of verbal or non-verbal conduct that harms or intimidates others to the extent that quality of care or patient safety could be compromised.

Disruptive behavior by Medical Staff members is prohibited. Examples of disruptive behavior include, but are not limited to, the following: Physically threatening language directed at anyone in the hospital including physicians, nurses, other Medical Staff members, or any hospital employee, administrator or member of the Board of Directors; Physical contact with another individual that is threatening or intimidating; Throwing instruments, charts or other things.

This is how the Stanford policy deals with inappropriate or disruptive behavior:

          If this is the first incident of inappropriate behavior, the Chief of Staff (COS)or designee shall discuss the matter with the offending Medical Staff member, emphasizing that the behavior is inappropriate and must cease. The offending Medical Staff member may be asked to apologize to the complainant. The approach during this initial intervention should be collegial and helpful.

            Further isolated incidents that do not constitute persistent, repeated inappropriate behavior will be handled by providing the offending Medical Staff member with notification of each incident, and a reminder of the expectation the individual comply with this Code of Behavior.

          If the COS or designee determines the Medical Staff member has demonstrated persistent, repeated inappropriate behavior, constituting harassment (a form of disruptive behavior), or has engaged in disruptive behavior on the first offense, the case will be referred to the COS and/or the Committee on Professionalism (COP). The subject will be notified of this decision and given an opportunity to provide a written response both prior to and subsequent to meeting with the COS or COP.

            If it is determined that the subject has engaged in disruptive behavior, a letter of admonition will be sent to the offending member, and, as appropriate, a rehabilitation action plan developed by the COS and/or COP, with the advice and counsel of the medical executive committee as indicated. The assistance of the Wellbeing Committee may be offered at any stage of this process.

             If, in spite of this admonition and intervention, disruptive behavior recurs, the COS or designee shall meet with and advise the offending Medical Staff member such behavior must immediately cease or corrective action will be initiated. This “final warning” shall be sent to the offending Medical Staff member in writing.

            If after the “final warning” the disruptive behavior recurs, corrective action (including possible suspension or termination of privileges) shall be initiated pursuant to the Medical Staff bylaws of which this Code of Behavior is a part, and the Medical Staff member shall have all of the due process rights set forth in the Medical Staff bylaws.

What do you do when inappropriate or disruptive behavior occurs in your operating room? The specialty of anesthesia provides wonderful positives such as intellectual challenge, multiple different subspecialties, hands-on procedures, and solid financial reimbursement. A disadvantage of the specialty of anesthesia is that anesthesiologists are consultants who do not have their own patients. No patient goes to the hospital or surgery center solely to have an anesthetic. Patients are there for some invasive procedure that requires an anesthetic.

Because the patient “belongs” to the surgeon, some surgeons use this fact to lord power over the anesthesiology provider, the operating room nurses, and surgical technicians, as well as over the hospital administration. A busy surgeon with a hefty workload brings a great deal of revenue to the hospital or surgery center he or she chooses to operate at. Some surgeons feel entitled to exercise condescending behavior toward nurses and anesthesiologists who they perceive to be merely part of hospital or surgery center services. Some surgeons yell, cuss, and throw things. Some engage in more subversive behaviors such as ignoring questions, acting impatient, insulting colleagues or speaking to them in condescending tones. Only a small percent of surgeons are bad actors, but a small proportion can have a big impact.

In my 25-year anesthesia career I’ve seen multiple examples of verbally and emotionally abusive surgeons. In distant years most of these surgeons met little resistance to their behavior. Staff who opposed them were moved to different operating rooms, and more enabling nurses and techs were found. The enablers were quiet, agreeable, hard working, and rarely questioned the surgeon’s authority. Anesthesiologists who resisted surgeon bullying stopped working with that surgeon, per both the surgeon and the anesthesiologist’s wishes. Alternate anesthesia providers were tried until a subgroup of passive enabler anesthetists was found.

My advice to any anesthesiologist out there is: Don’t be an enabler. You are a highly trained physician, deserving of respect. If a surgeon has an episode of acting disrespectfully to you or to any of the other operating room staff, conclude your care of that current patient without a confrontation. After the case is finished, choose a time to hold a face-to-face conversation with the surgeon. The setting could be a hallway, in the locker room, or at some other location where no patient care is being done. Tell him or her that you find their behavior toward you unacceptable, and that they need to stop it. If you get pushback, and you probably will, you have several choices: 1) have a loud verbal argument, asserting your will against theirs, 2) grin, bear it, and stop complaining about the circumstance; 3) request your scheduler to never schedule you with this surgeon again; or 4) kick it upstairs to the chief of the department and/or the chief of the surgery department.

Which option should you choose?

1) gets you a boisterous unprofessional argument with an individual who will be resistant to change. 2) results in a long-term unacceptable solution for you and your professional esteem. 3) gets you off the hook but does nothing to change the situation for others in the operating room. Only 4) will set the wheels in motion toward significant change. Stay calm and confident and refer the incident up to senior physician administrators to evoke change. If the department chairs can not impact behavioral change, take the issue higher to the Chief of Staff.

A genuine problem occurs when a bullying surgeon leaves all major medical centers and starts his or her own surgery center where he or she is the Medical Director and his or her bad behavior goes unscrutinized. If you are working in such a setting, I’d advise you to find another place to give anesthetics. Without an unbiased administrator, the surgeon bullying behaviors will never go away.

You’ll be happier working in an operating room cured of disruptive behavior, and the real winners will be the patients, who will come and go through a hospital free of disruptive behavior and bullying.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

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Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

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WHY DOES ANYONE DECIDE THEY WANT TO BECOME AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST?

the anesthesia consultant

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

A question anesthesiologists are commonly asked is, “Why did you want to become an anesthesiologist?”

Let’s assume a young man or woman has the discipline and intellect to attend medical school. Once that individual gains their M.D. degree, they will choose a specialty from a long line-up that includes multiple surgical specialties (general surgery, orthopedics, urology, neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, ophthalmology, plastic surgery, ear-nose-and-throat surgery), internal medicine, pediatrics, family practice, dermatology, radiology, invasive radiology, radiation oncology, allergy-immunology, emergency medicine, and anesthesiology.

Why choose anesthesiology? I offer up a list of the reasons individuals like myself chose this specialty:

  1. Anesthesiologists do acute care rather than clinic care or chronic care. Some doctors enjoy sitting in a clinic 40+ hours a week, talking to and listening to patients. Other doctors prefer acute care, where more exciting things happen moment to moment. It’s true that surgeons do acute care in the operating room, but most surgeons spend an equal amount of time in clinic, seeing patients before and after scheduled surgical procedures. Chronic care in clinics can be emotionally taxing. Ordering diagnostic studies and prescribing a variety of pills suits certain M.D.’s, but acute care in operating rooms and intensive care units is more stimulating. It’s exciting controlling a patient’s airway, breathing, and circulation. It’s exciting having a patient’s life in your hands. Time flies.
  2. Patients like and respect their anesthesiologist, and that feels good. Maybe it’s because we are about to take each patient’s life into our hands, but during those minutes prior to surgery, patients treat anesthesiologists very well. I tend to learn more about my patients’ personal lives, hobbies, and social history in those 10 minutes of conversation prior to surgery than I ever did in my internal medicine clinic.
  3. An anesthesiologist’s patients are unconscious the majority of time. Some anesthesiologists are attracted the this aspect. An unconscious patient is not complaining. In contrast, try to imagine a 50-hour-a-week clinic practice as an internal medicine doctor, in which every one of your patients has a list of medical problems they are eager to tell you about.
  4. There is tremendous variety in anesthesia practice. We take care of patients ranging in ages from newborns to 100-year-olds. We anesthetize patients for heart surgery, brain surgery, abdominal or chest surgeries, bone and joint surgeries, cosmetic surgery, eye surgery, urological surgery, trauma surgery, and organ transplantation surgery. Every mother for Cesarean section has an anesthetist, as do mothers for many vaginal deliveries for childbirth. Anesthesiologists run intensive care units and anesthesiologists are medical directors of operating rooms as well as pain clinics.
  5. Anesthesiologists work with a lot of cool gadgets and advanced technology. The modern anesthesia workstation is full of computers and computerized devices we use to monitor patients. The modern anesthesia workstation has parallels to a commercial aircraft cockpit.
  6. Lifestyle. We work hard, but if an anesthesiologist chooses to take a month off, he or she can be easily replaced during the absence. It’s very hard for an office doctor to take extended time away from their patients. Many patients will find a alternate doctor during a one month absence if the original physician is unavailable. This aspect of anesthesia is particularly attractive to some female physicians who have dual roles as mother and physician, and choose to work less than full-time as an anesthesiologist so they can attend to their children and family.
  7. Anesthesia is a procedural specialty. We work with our hands inserting IV’s, breathing tubes, central venous IV catheters, arterial catheters, spinal blocks, epidural blocks, and peripheral nerve blocks as needed. It’s fun to do these procedures. Historically, procedural specialties have been higher paid than non=procedural specialties.

What about problematic issues with a career in anesthesia? There are a few:

  1. We work hard. Surgical schedules commonly begin at 7:30 a.m., and anesthesiologists have to arrive well before that time to prepare equipment, evaluate the first patient, and get that patient asleep before any surgery can commence. After years of this, my internal alarm clock tends to wake me at 6:00 a.m. even on weekends.
  2. Crazy hours. Every emergency surgery—every automobile accident, gunshot wound, heart transplant, or urgent Cesarean section at 3 a.m. needs an anesthetist. Working around the clock can wear you out.
  3. The stakes are high if you make a serious mistake. In a clinic setting, an M.D. may commit malpractice by failing to recognize that a patient’s vague chest pain is really a heart attack, or an M.D. may fail to order or to check on an important lab test, leading to a missed diagnosis. But in an operating room, the malpractice risks to an anesthesiologist are dire. A failure in properly insert a breathing tube can lead to brain death in minutes. This level of tension isn’t for everyone. Some doctors are not emotionally suited for anesthesia practice.
  4. In the future, anesthesia doctors may gradually lose market share of their practice to nurse anesthetists. You can peruse other columns in this blog where I’ve discussed this issue.
  5. Anesthesiologists don’t bring any patients to a medical center. In medical politics, this can be problematic. Anesthesiologists have limited power in some negotiations, because we can be seen as service providers rather than as a source of new patient referrals for a hospital. Some hospital administrators see an anesthetist as easily replaced by the next anesthetist who walks through the door, or who offers to work for a lower wage.

The positive aspects of anesthesiology far outweigh these negatives.

Akin to the Dos Equis commercial that describes “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” I’d describe the profession of anesthesiology as “The Most Interesting Job in the World.”

And when you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

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HOW DOES A SURGERY CENTER INVESTIGATE IF A SURGEON IS PRACTICING BELOW THE STANDARD OF CARE?

the anesthesia consultant

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Clinical Case for Discussion:    You are the Medical Director of a freestanding surgery center.  A surgeon at the facility has a serious perioperative complication which leads to a bad outcome.  You believe that his management was below the standard of care.  What do you do?

Discussion:    You put on your best Dirty Harry sneer and say, “Punk, we don’t want your kind in these parts no more.”  Then you wake up from your daydream, and deal with the reality of an unpleasant responsibility.  Playing policeman with your surgical colleague’s privileges is not on any anesthesiologist’s Top Ten list.

There is a growing trend of surgical cases moving away from hospitals to freestanding facilities.   Each of these outposts must have medical leadership.  Anesthesiologists are ideally suited for Medical Director jobs, because of their training and expertise in perioperative patient care.  In addition, duties include quality assurance (QA) monitoring, setting policies and procedures, preoperative consultation regarding appropriateness of particular patients for the facility, and medical staff credentialing.

The phrase “Standard of Care” is defined as “the level at which an ordinary, prudent professional having the same training and experience in good standing in a same or similar community would practice under the same or similar circumstances.”  When a physician is suspected of practicing below the standard of care, the facility he or she is practicing at may initiate an investigation of his or her clinical practice.  In addition, if there was an adverse patient outcome, the medical malpractice system may initiate legal action to investigate the physician’s role in the adverse outcome.

This column will discuss only the investigation of the physician by the medical facility, and will not address the workings of the medical malpractice system.

When an adverse patient outcome occurs, the QA system at a surgery center begins with telephone calls to the Medical Director to inform him or her of the event, followed by written incident reports to document the details of what occurred.  The Medical Director is responsible for screening for:

(1) errors in the system which contributed to the patient’s outcome,

(2) errors in judgment, or

(3) practice below the standard of care.

Goals are to:

a)  improve any system problem which lead to the complication,

b)  identify  educational opportunities to prevent future incidents, and

c) identify if an individual may have practiced below the standard of care.  The medical-legal system defines standard of care as what a reasonably competent practitioner of that specialty would do in the same setting.

What will you do as Medical Director if after careful review of the medical records and incident reports, you believe the surgeon’s management was below the standard of care?   Each facility you work at, including a hospital or any surgery center, has a document called the Medical Staff Bylaws.  Most physicians throw their copy into a file cabinet and never read it.  In a case like we are examining today, the Bylaws are the road map for what to do next.  A typical Bylaw pathway might be as follows:   (Reference:  Bylaws of the Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California.)

(1) Investigation.  The QA committee, with representatives of all specialties, reviews the case.   (At  different institutions, this committee may have  a different name,  such as the Medical Advisory Committee, or the Medical Care Evaluation Committee.)   They may appoint an Ad Hoc Investigation Committee of relevant specialties to gather facts and circumstances.  The Investigation Committee will report back to the QA committee with their consensus.

(2) Interview.  The physician is interviewed by the QA committee.

(3) Actions.  The QA committee may:   a) take no action,  b) issue a warning,  c) recommend a term of probation,  d) recommend a reduction or suspension of privileges, or  e) recommend suspension or revoking of medical staff membership.

(4) Request for a hearing.  The physician may appeal and request a hearing following suspension or revoking of privileges.  An Ad Hoc Hearing Committee composed of unbiased members of the medical staff not previously involved in the investigation is chosen.  The physician is physically present for the hearing, and may have an attorney present.  The meeting is tape recorded, and all evidence is heard.  The majority decision of the Hearing Committee is usually final.  A system for appeals exists.

(5) Any suspension or revocation of privileges must be reported to the Medical Board of California, and the National Practitioner Data Bank.  Being reported to these two is a very big deal.  In the surgeon’s future, every application to every hospital or surgery center, and every medical license renewal would have to include this information.

Despite the obvious perks of stretch limousines, penthouse suites, and groupies,  the Medical Director job comes with some serious responsibilities.  Investigating another physician’s practice is difficult, time-consuming, and can be emotionally taxing for everyone involved.  Ignoring potentially substandard care is a mistake, however, that can result in further mishaps and the possibility of further patient harm in the future.

Dirty Harry exists for doctors too, but it is a system, not an individual, that does the dirty work. The Quality Assurance investigative system is a chore and and obligation for a Medical Director, but it’s an important and essential chore.

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

DSC04882_edited

 

 

ANESTHESIOLOGISTS AND HOSPITAL POLITICS

the anesthesia consultant

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997

Clinical Case For Discussion:  A member of your anesthesia group is elected to the hospital Medical Board. The Board meets the first Wednesday morning of every month at 7:30 a.m., the same time that anesthesiologists begin their work in the operating rooms. What do you do?

Discussion:  How about this reply? “This group is about giving propofol, not about going to meetings. The patients pay us for giving anesthetics, and no one pays us to go to meetings. At 7:30 a.m., we have 18 anesthesiologists, and 18 O.R. blocks to cover. If you are not available to give anesthesia care, then one set of surgeons, a nurse, a tech and a patient are going to have to wait. And that costs money, too. See if they can change the Board meeting to 5 p.m., when you are done and available.”

During the first year of my anesthesia residency at Stanford, a senior faculty member gave me this advice: “Find something to do that is outside the operating room. Most anesthesiologists are content to slip in the locker room wearing casual clothes or shorts, change into scrubs, and spend their whole professional life without interacting with the rest of the medical community.” He went on to describe opportunities such as the pain clinic and the ICU. I would expand that list to include medical staff meetings, hanging out in the cafeteria or doctor’s lounge, medical leadership roles within the hospital, or volunteer work. Most political and committee meetings are either the first thing in the morning or at noon. Both of these times are inconvenient for operating room anesthesiologists.

Consider the alternative: imagine a hospital run entirely by administrators, nurse executives, and physicians of other specialties. What do you think will happen to the agendas and desires of anesthesiologists? In academic medicine, faculty have full or partial days devoted to research, writing, lecturing, or going to meetings. On these days, no one expects them to give anesthetics, and it is possible to go to important meetings such as the Medical Board. Bryan Bohman, M.D., a member of my private anesthesia group, the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group of Palo Alto, California, was elected Chief of Staff of Stanford Hospital from 2008 -1011. Dr. Bohman is an example of an anesthesiologist who is extremely active outside of the operating room – well known and respected enough to win election by a vote of all specialties. Bryan has had multiple meetings to attend over his term of office. Because Bryan works in private practice, he has the difficulties discussed in the first paragraph. Because our group values representation in hospital politics, we consistently made Bryan’s schedule fit his political responsibilities. Options to make your colleague available for hospital politics and meetings include: 1) Schedule the individual in the shortest day, so that they can attend meetings at noon or later in the day; 2) Schedule one operating room to start late, or start with a local case, if meetings begin at 7:30 a.m.;  or 3) Give the individual the whole day off and hire a freelancer to start the O.R. at 7:30 a.m. This last option will result in a lost day’s wages for the elected anesthesiologist in a fee-for-service practice. This raises an additional question: In private practice, does administrating and going to meetings have any financial value to the group? As discussed above, I believe there is clear value to being represented within the hospital and within the medical community. There is financial incentive to do an extra anesthetic. But there is no incentive to go to meetings, especially if the meeting keeps you from doing an anesthetic during that same time slot. Every private group will handle these issues in their own way. My recommendation, one way or another, is to give members the opportunity and incentive to get involved outside the operating room.

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

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Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at ricknovak.com by clicking on the picture below:  

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