An Anesthesiologist’s Wisdom on Life, Death, and Empathy

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An Anesthesiologist’s Wisdom on Life, Death, and Empathy

September 13, 2023

An Anesthesiologist’s Wisdom on Life, Death, and Empathy

Even those of us who’ve had surgery probably haven’t given much thought to the person who put us under and carefully monitored us while the surgeon did their work. I’m here today with anesthesiologist, author, and test pilot Dr. David Alfery to discuss his book, Saving Grace: What Patients Teach Their Doctors About Life, Death, and the Balance in Between, which was published by Wipf and Stock earlier in 2023. David was a cardiac anesthesiologist for over 30 years, taking patients to the brink of death and back during surgery.

A cardiac anesthesiologist, Dr. Alfery reveals to readers of his book the critical role of the “total stranger [who] would take them closer to death than they would ever come in this life, then bring them safely back.”

David’s book explores the highs and lows of being an anesthesiologist, including his personal experience during his own daughter’s surgery. In this episode, we explore fears, aspirations, and motivations of health professionals and how to create and maintain sacred trust between physicians and their patients. 

David shared 3 powerful takeaways: 

1️⃣ Human connection is key: The doctor-patient relationship is a unique space that amplifies all the things that make us human and connect us. Empathy, gratitude, and perspective are the vital keys in our interactions with others.

2️⃣ Corporate medicine has negatively impacted teamwork in the OR by pressuring faster case turnover and high staff turnover. Teams that know each other work more smoothly together. 

3️⃣ Trust and touch: Trust is at the core of the physician-patient relationship, and touch plays a crucial role in building that trust. Yet, there has been a shift in the reception of touch by patients. Personal space and boundaries are more important than ever, and it’s essential for healthcare professionals to be respectful and mindful of this.

David D. Alfery. Saving Grace: What Patients Teach their Doctors about Life, Death, and the Balance in Between. Resource Publications. 2023. [this affiliate link earns the podcast a small commission at no additional cost to you] 

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