Health as an industry has been rocked by 2020, but the ways in which different professions within that industry have been impacted are varied. Surgery, for example, has experienced significant stress in the form of mass elective surgery cancellations due to mandated shutdowns and stunted recovery after those limitations were lifted. As a result of these shutdowns and the widespread drop in demand for less-than-necessary operations, many surgeons have been furloughed, laid off, or pushed into retirement. Not only that, the few that ARE returning to work have their own issues as well that we’ll discuss below. 

Thankfully, there are ways to address all of these issues facing surgery, though they will take time to implement. It’s very likely 2020 and beyond will see a staunch focusing on rebuilding surgery to its former glory. So, what are the issues that need to be addressed and how can the proper hardware like medical computer systems aid in that resurgence? 

Training Out of Practice Staff

As rising elective surgery cancellations have left many surgeons without work, several have been left on call or furloughed altogether. Unfortunately, this has resulted in many surgeons who have been away from the operating table for several months. Simply tossing out of practice physicians and surgeons back into the swing of things won’t yield pre-COVID results. In fact, doing so could result in worsened patient outcomes and the last thing facilities want right now is for patients to have more reasons to distrust the efficacy of surgery. It’s clear new means of training and support for surgeons both veteran and new will be necessary to support a seamless transition back to work.

Remote coaching and education remain popular means of training surgeons while they’re furloughed at home. Not only does this allow for them to stay on top of their training, it also allows for more efficient training that takes less time to conduct, giving the actual trainers/teachers more time and bandwidth with which to assist their facilities that are likely stretched thin as it is.

Take Time to Provide Feedback

For staff still on site, it’s also important to provide feedback both before and after operations so as to better train surgeons and also provide better patient outcomes. And this is something the general surgery workforce has known it’s needed for quite some time. According to a survey by the Journal of Surgery Education, nearly half of general surgery residents say they only receive post-op feedback 20% of the time. Finding a way to implement this kind of feedback into your surgery wing’s workflow will be essential to retaining surgeons and better preparing them for improved patient outcomes in the future. Whether this be done in person after a procedure or through remote training and pre-loaded educational modules performed through a portable medical grade tablet, the need for this practice can’t be understated.[

Rebuilding the Surgeon Workforce

There are several professions that are seeing drops in their available labor force as a result of the current crisis. Surgery is no different. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States could be short by as many as 23,400 surgeons by 2032. Rebuilding the surgeon workforce after the massive hike in elective surgery cancellations and the patient hesitation that’s sure to follow is going to take a meticulous, long term-focused approach.

As is gospel across all levels of healthcare, diminishing burnout where it can occur will be essential to keeping surgeons around and encouraging new surgeons to enter the profession. We’ve discussed how burnout can affect both physicians and nurses and the philosophies behind eliminating burnout. Thankfully, much of the same strategies exist for surgeon burnout as well. To start, addressing burnout and stress with staff counseling or regularly scheduled discussions about these issues can help staff feel listened to and heard, boosting retention and the likelihood of finding methods of addressing work overload in ways that best meet your team’s specific needs. 

On the hardware side of things, reducing administrative burdens such as those brought on by EHRs has been proven to aid in burnout reduction. Something like a large 4k medical display, for example, can house more information on screen and also be customized with RFID hardware capable of quickly scanning surgical instruments to determine whether or not they’ve been sanitized. These sound like minimal contributions that save seconds in the short term but, in the long run it serves to save several hours of time.  

Addressing New Infection Concerns

Re-invigorated concerns over infection are keeping both surgeons and patients out of the operating theater, impacting the practice from both sides. Addressing these new infection concerns can help surgeons feel more protected and patients feel more enticed to come in for elective procedures. If there are new procedures being performed such as round-the-clock disinfections, let your staff know through public updates and bulletins.

As far as safety within the operating bay itself. Investing in the right hardware is also paramount. Medical cart computers that are designed to be IP65 certified can address infection concerns while also streamlining surgical practices. The IP rating guarantees repeated disinfections can occur without damaging internal components. Which means a medical cart computer can actually be present within the operating room as operations are occurring, and open the door to more responsive, timely treatment.  

Elective Surgery Cancellations Won’t Last But Its Effects Will

With time, surgery will return to some semblance of a status quo. Patients will feel more comfortable scheduling elective surgeries which will prompt surgeons to slowly regain work. Unfortunately, if surgeons continue leaving the workforce en masse as they are now due to burnout and forced retirement, facilities won’t have the manpower necessary to meet the demands of their returning patients. That said, addressing the concerns of mass elective surgery cancellations now can future-proof your team for when those cancellations become less common. For more information on how your team can start, contact a professional from Cybernet today.