Aging anesthesiologists can still play a key role

  • Turning Off the Gas: The Aging Anesthesiologist
  • Tuesday, 2:10-3:10 p.m.
  • McCormick Place West, W192abc

The “gray tsunami” of aging baby boomers is reflected in the specialty of anesthesiology as much as in any other segment of the population. The number of practicing anesthesiologists over age 65 has increased from 10 percent to close to 15 percent in the last 10 years. Those senior anesthesiologists, though, still have a lot to offer.

“We want to focus on what a late-career anesthesiologist can bring to a practice and how a practice and a late-career anesthesiologist can work together for the mutual benefit of our patients,” said Jonathan D. Katz, M.D., who will present “Turning Off the Gas: The Aging Anesthesiologist.”

Reaching an arbitrarily defined retirement age does not mean an anesthesiologist is necessarily ready to, or should, retire. Many are capable of continuing to work and can be effective, but in different roles.

“I want to discuss in very broad strokes the physiology of aging generally — how it affects most of us one way or another,” said Dr. Katz, Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology at Yale University School of Medicine. “But I want to stress that the aging process is very variable. There is no way to make really strong generalizations, but we can expect certain things to occur as we age. The physiology of aging affects how we practice anesthesia.”

Among the prominent changes are decreased hearing, vision and stamina, as well as the manner in which late-career anesthesiologists approach a clinical problem, said Dr. Katz, who also is Professor of Anesthesiology at Frank Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University and an attending anesthesiologist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“There are limitations imposed by age and there are advantages that come along with aging,” he said. “Late-career anesthesiologists bring with them a lifetime of clinical experience, wisdom and judgment. It is hard to replace that. These are valuable members of a team.”

Among the adjustments a practice and an anesthesiologist may consider include limiting night calls or work on more complex procedures. Those adjustments can vary from practice to practice and from anesthesiologist to anesthesiologist.

“There are 70-year-olds who are great and there are 70-year-olds who should be doing more limited practice,” Dr. Katz said.I hope the audience gets an appreciation of what changes are normal and how these changes in an individual can work to the benefit of the anesthesiologist, his or her group and their patients.”

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