A guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to KevinMD.com.
Fire Prevention Week. National Volunteer Week. Save Your Vision Week. The list goes on! These observances or “awareness weeks” aim to advocate important messages both locally and nationally to the media and public. You may wonder about the effectiveness of an overload of awareness weeks, but if the reasons behind the rally are clear and well-organized, a day, week or month-long observance can serve a distinct purpose and result in tangible benefits; this is especially true for health care.
Physicians play a critical role in advocating for their specialty and ensuring that patients continue to receive the highest-quality, safest care. Taking action during your specialty’s awareness week allows you to champion your specialty and help the public become more aware of the important role you play in your patients’ health and lives.
As physicians, we understand first-hand the amount of education and training involved within our various specialties. However, our patients and policymakers may not be aware of the educational disparities between health care providers. That is why it’s important for you to engage and connect with lobbyists, policymakers, colleagues and patient advocates during your specialty’s awareness week.
For example, when going into surgery, many patients assume the physician anesthesiologist is just the person who brings them to a state of unconsciousness prior to having their procedure or surgery. They often don’t realize the comprehensive medical care the physician anesthesiologist and anesthesia care team provide in managing their care before, during and after surgery. Many policymakers are also unaware of the importance of maintaining a patient-centered, physician-led, team-based approach to health care. As advocates for our own specialties, the responsibility lies with us to inform them of our vital role in our patients’ care.
One way to take action during your specialty’s awareness week is to share your story. Talk about the steps you take, every day, to make a difference in the lives of your patients. Shoot a video and post it to YouTube or offer interviews to the media. For example, listen to the story of David Krhovsky, MD, who diagnosed serious internal bleeding in his patient after surgery. I’m sure many of you have an account from your daily routines about a critical moment when the medical care you provided was vital and made the difference between life and death.
Another way to raise awareness about the critical issues that impact your specialty is to engage in social media. Developing a hashtag for your awareness week allows stakeholders to easily follow the actions of their colleagues, and anyone interested in the topic can search through social media posts for quick updates. You can also lead your social media connections to your website for further information on pertinent issues to increase visibility and the online presence of your specialty.
Awareness weeks are also the perfect time to highlight important patient safety initiatives within your field. You can focus on innovations that have improved your specialty as a whole or emphasize specific improvements in medicine, patient safety or technology.
There are countless other ways to engage during these observances. You can take action politically, by scheduling meetings with legislators to advocate for your patients and showcase your expertise to policymakers. Get creative and develop ways to involve the media and share your critical stories and messages through print and broadcast interviews and letters-to-the-editor.
There are many reasons why the health care community should rally and take action during awareness weeks. Remember, the most important aspect of a themed week is getting the word out. So I will be sounding off January 31 to February 6 and advocating for my specialty by increasing awareness during Physician Anesthesiologists Week. What will you do and how will you put your ideas into action when it’s your specialty’s awareness week?
Kenneth Elmassian is an anesthesiologist.
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