One of the things I really enjoy about being an anesthesiologist is the wide variety of patients that I see. You never know who you're going to have the privilege to care for on a given day. Although my group is large, I will occasionally be assigned to a patient that I personally know. And occasionally, someone I know will request me as their anesthesiologist.
Last month I took care of a friend who requested me for her surgery. It was a very straightforward case, everything went smoothly, and she expressed abundant gratitude at the end of her experience. I was also asked to do anesthesia by a friend for a surgery that, knowing her history, was going to be fairly complicated. That one gave me pause, but I did it and everything turned out well.
Gizabeth recently wrote about being a doctor to her friend, and I'll bet that some of you have also taken care of friends (or have become friends with some of your patients). I would venture to say that being an anesthesiologist or surgeon to a friend adds an even further layer of complexity because there is an immediate "life and death" aspect to what we do. However, either fortunately or unfortunately, patients don't usually appreciate this.
On the "pro" side, patients can feel a great sense of empowerment in choosing their own anesthesiologist. A good attitude and sense of empowerment going into surgery can translate to less stress on the patient and better overall recovery. During my residency, I had a scary brain surgery. At first, I thought it would be awkward to personally know my surgeon and anesthesiologist, but out of convenience and timeliness, I chose to have the surgery at my own institution. I was able to choose my anesthesiologist - who at the time was one of my supervisors! In the end, I felt great comfort in personally knowing my healthcare team.
On the "con" side, there is a phenomenon in our specialty called VIP syndrome. Taking care of a VIP subconsciously makes people pause and do things slightly differently than they would normally do, rendering the whole process vulnerable to errors. What if your friend suffers an adverse event under your care? And are your decisions objective enough in the situation?
What do you think? Would you and/or do you take care of friends? How about family members? Let us know your experiences with requests for care by friends, acquaintances, or family.