“I view this through my own 68-year-old point of view and I guess, like most of us, I feel like I’m in the slower aging cohort.
“My personal observations about the older physician, that is somebody over the age of 60 (now I’m calling on my Medical Board background), is that these physicians tend to get into ‘trouble’ more frequently than younger physicians do.
“I think it will be an exceptional anesthesiologist who reaches retirement age and carries a full clinical load, takes night call, and maintains the intensity of cases.
“I think in most groups that seniority warrants “perks.”
“Most physicians desire to retire sooner, rather than later. Have never had to deal with a physician unable to perform duties because of age.
“Senior members should recognize that they may not be able to work as much as they would like to in order to be sure that they won’t have to work more than they care to. Younger members should realize that any rules adopted will eventually apply to them.
“I don’t feel that an anesthesiologist needs to have razor sharp reflexes as few events occur in anesthesia that require a response in that time frame. The speed of one’s reflexes should not be confused with a lack of vigilance this is where the experienced anesthesiologist has a significant edge over the neophyte by being able to recognize the initial, subtle changes. This permits early, low key intervention rather than heroic rescue maneuvers. Good luck is the end product of good design.
“Don’t try to establish ‘mandatory” number of hours that ‘elderly” anesthetists can work, or mandatory retirement ages. These should be flexible and depend on each individual.
“The manner in which we handled this issue with our senior partner served us well. Step I was to delete call at equal pay and to select less stressful cases for him. Step 2 was to encourage him to work fewer weeks per year or to work part-time on a per them basis for several years. During this time we utilized this person for vacation relief during regular hours. At Step 3 this person voluntarily retired with his prestige and dignity intact.
“I really feel that one must handle this issue on a case-by-case basis.
“Our Board has designated a fatiguing call as any 24 hour call period in which one does not get at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep during the last 12 hours of the call period. Anesthesia personnel should not sign up to give anesthetics in any clinical context or location after taking a designated fatiguing call.”