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For an anesthesiologist, this is the hardest part of medicine

As a cardiac anesthesiologist, there are times I care for patients who are faced with a tough decision: to take their chance on a very high-risk surgery, or let nature take its course.  It is in these times I feel most humble and most human, as I may be the last one to hear the last words they speak.

Recently I was at a social event and introducing myself to some new people. A friend of mine was standing next to me, and she told me “Sasha, do you realize you’re kind of a touchy person? You reach out and touch each person you meet. That’s not normal.”

At first, I was kind of stunned, then I realized that this has become a habit of mine due to my career as an anesthesiologist. Although I read about my patients before I ever meet them, and I have may have discussed their plan with the surgeon, as an anesthesiologist I only have about 15 minutes to meet a person before I render them unconscious. That’s not a lot of time to create trust, so the first thing I do is reach out my hand and place it in theirs.

Most of the time, my patients don’t let go.

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