Finding PEEP In a Bottle (of Water): Thinking Outside The Box

As you read this I am flying to Honduras with International Relief Team on a head and neck surgery medical mission. I will attempt to post mission updates from the hospital compound, pending internet connections. Participating in a medical mission to the developing world is never easy.

Medical personnel trained in a high tech environment take for granted the complex monitoring devices, multiple choices of drugs, and plentiful support peronnel which simplify our job. When medical volunteers travel to the developing world they are often unprepared for the potential hazards produced by outdated technology, unfamiliar and sometimes poorly maintained equipment, poor sanitation, limited supplies, and a malnourished, often poorly educated population.

Let me give you an example of one rather exciting case from early in my volunteer experience. Continue reading

Protect Yourself From Infection In The Workplace

I don’t know if you have been following the MERS outbreak in the news but it does raise some concern. The CDC issued a MERS advisory yesterday. July 11, 2015 ABC news story covering CDC announcement of MERS outbreak status.

There are several animal and avian viruses that show the potential of becoming easily transmissible to humans. MERS, H7N9 and H5N1 are already spreading in humans, although not easily. The last major jump from animal to human occurred with the 1918 flu pandemic where an estimated 40 million people died. Mortality from MERS is currently 330-40% in the Middle East and 10% in South Korea. As health care workers, how we approach infectious disease precautions will have a lot to do with how safe we and our patients are in the workplace. Continue reading

Embrace the Catastrophist Within: Protecting Ourselves From Respiratory Infection

My husband calls me his catastrophist. I’ll admit it. I relish disaster movies and read history about plagues and calamities. All my knick-knacks are glued down in anticipation of the next earthquake. I’m always pointing out the worst possible thing that could happen when we embark on any adventure —even if that adventure is barbecuing in the backyard.

But a good anesthesiologist, or any health care provider, has to embrace the catastrophist within because our goal is to protect our patients from the unexpected. We have to constantly imagine the worst-case scenario so that if, or when, it happens we not only recognize it early, we’re ready for it. What we’re often not good at is protecting ourselves at work. We tend to be so patient focused that we often don’t even think about personal hazards. Continue reading