Off Duty - Dr Stephen Davies BMed. FANZCA
Dr Stephen Davies was born in Newcastle in New South Wales, Dr Davies studied Medicine at Newcastle University as a mature age student. He completed his Anaesthesia training in Canberra (ACT) and Retrieval Medicine training at Careflight (NSW).
What does your current role entail?
Visiting medical officer in both public and private hospitals in the Canberra region providing anaesthesia to adult patients for general, emergency, orthopaedic, ophthalmology, dental/ oral surgery, obstetric and plastic surgery.
I have been appointed to the Panel of Examiners for the final examination of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists commencing 2013.
Why did you decide to go down this path?
I entered medical school with thoughts of becoming a psychiatrist but was impressed by the anaesthetists I met during surgical and intensive care terms. They were generally quietly spoken and went about their work in a very directed way. As a student it is very difficult to understand or appreciate the subtleties of the day to day activities of anaesthetists – in some ways it’s magical – so much is happening but you cant see it.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Hearing some fantastic stories from patients about their background and experiences.
Sharing a laugh with the hard working theatre staff!
Teaching trainees who are keen to learn.
And what about the challenges, tell us about all the challenges you face!
Providing anaesthesia is a challenging role as no two patients are the same, nor do they necessarily respond to the stresses of surgery in a predictable way. The essence of great anaesthesia is to be ever vigilant – checking and rechecking, responding to the physiological responses of the patient to surgery.
Developing an anaesthesia plan for a particular patients surgery is integral in providing safe anaesthesia. This can be challenging at short notice when on call for emergency or trauma surgery. Calls after midnight for emergency surgery – get a little harder as the years go by.
Challenges for anaesthetists also arise as the profiles of our patients change. We now see older patients having major procedures into their eighties and nineties, we see new medications which can interact with or preclude certain anaesthetic techniques and finally the rise of obesity presents many challenges.
What do you think is the most important improvement that you would like to see made?
Many of the important and great improvements in anaesthesia have already been made. The ability to easily monitor a patients oxygen levels and ventilation, to monitor cardiac function and now to assess the depth of anaesthesia are every day realities for modern anaesthesia in Australia.
Improvements in the sophistication of anaesthesia machines that deliver the anaesthesia mixture (with intensive care style ventilators) and the developing ability to access and integrate patient results from general hospital data to these machines are current areas of progress.
However, on a broader world view, basic oxygen monitoring during anaesthesia is not available in many countries. It is a current project of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, as well as the Australian Society of Anaesthetists to support ‘Lifebox’ – a not for profit organization which raises funds to purchase this basic equipment ( a pulse oximeter) for these countries.
When you have time off, what do you enjoy doing?
I always try to get in some exercise where possible. I have 2 Schnauzers – Tosca and Carmen who always hope this exercise involves them. I enjoy cooking and sourcing fresh food at the local markets. I always try to find some time to catch up with the politics of the day- its part of the pulse of Canberra.
Describe the perception versus the reality of your position
Specialist Anaesthetists are highly trained doctors who complete a further 5 years of anaesthesia training after medical school and general hospital residency. It takes about 12-14 years from the start of medical school and requires 2 sets of major exams throughout the anaesthesia training time. Occasionally, some patients ask if you need to train at all, or are surprised to find out that you have studied medicine. Others ask if you will be present during the surgery.
In some ways, this is a problem of the ‘invisibility’ of the anaesthetist. Many television shows and news reports feature the surgeon and the role played by surgery. While surgical breakthroughs are fantastic, these are only possible because an anaesthetist has been present to care for the patient and provide the conditions and safety that makes surgery possible.
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