President's blog --- December 2019

A self-indulgent blog post and reflections on one year

As we approach the end of the year, enthusiasm for work starts to wane, hints of the coming summer creep into those precious weekends and lengthening evenings, whilst the promise of a Christmas holiday beckons. From the office, Daphne extended the choice of a ‘pass’ on the final blog post of the year, which I was going to readily accept. However, I now find myself with something to say, rather self-indulgently.

The trigger was a question put to a proposal I made to my department recently, around a matter of little relevance. The question, however, has stayed with me throughout the day: “What is the carrot?” Meaning, what is the upside to this? What is the benefit, to me, of what you ask of me?

It has led to self-reflection on what has been the benefit to me of being involved in the Society, of spending this year at the helm, of representing, at times “NZ anaesthesia.” I do not profess to be the sole representative or single point of accountability of NZ anaesthesia, but when I meet with colleagues from Australia, Canada, the USA, South Africa, or Britain & Ireland, I have done so as a representative of NZ anaesthesia. In fact, I am writing this blog at the Koru lounge at Auckland Airport, awaiting my flight to Boston to be part of the Safe Surgery Checklist High Performance Project, at which, along with Alan Merry, I will be expected to voice some of the NZ experiences of the WHO Checklist Programme.

This is obviously a carrot; being invited to attend a working group that I would otherwise not have come in contact with. Alongside Alan Merry in Boston, I will see Ed Mariano, and maybe meet Atul Gawande. Ed came to NZ to speak at the recent Scientific Meeting in Queenstown and is an active social media user with a significant Med-Twitter following.  He and his wife were great company in Queenstown, and it is exciting to be flying to Boston to spend time with him on what promises to be ‘high performance work.’

But there are also downsides. Whilst at the Australian ASA’s National Scientific Congress in Sydney recently, I had a lovely catch up chat with Annette Turley.  Annette presided over the Society in the early 2000s – in much more tumultuous times than I have so far experienced. During her tenure on the NZSA Executive, the Society was almost bankrupted mounting a cohesive, sensible and safe rebuttal of the proposed introduction of nurse anaesthesia to NZ. Ultimately, it was successful, but as Annette’s daughter remarked to her later, there were many significant childhood events Annette missed due to NZSA work.

And I have found this myself – I was in Melbourne last weekend (ANZCA Council), this weekend I am in Boston; next weekend Sydney (ASA Council). Then it’s my turn to work the on-call roster at Auckland before that last precious weekend before Christmas. I’m not complaining; I enjoy the networking, the sense of contributing to something and being part of decisions, or at least part of the debate prior to decision-making. But the job does take you away from home and this means missing the 10-year-old’s cricket, the seven-year-old’s soccer and explaining to the two-year old that no, he can’t stay home with mummy today. Thank goodness the President’s role is only for two years (hats off to Kibs and Chippie for lasting three years)!

One other thing, apart from the carrots, that has made my first year as President go smoothly is the support from my department. Charles Bradfield, CD and Vanessa Beavis, Director, surgical services, run a department with a ‘can-do’ attitude.  For example, at times, we have five or six people away at a single ANZCA National Committee meeting in Wellington and it is the other folk in the department who pick up this work. The response from my senior team when I proposed taking over from David Kibblewhite, was “how can we make this work?” I am extremely fortunate that I have ended up in a job where everything kind of goes quiet over Xmas and January, with great leave possibilities for those who wish to take January off to care for children on holiday.  So, the stress and absences of the year, can partially be rectified by facilitating a traditional, bach going summer holiday for the three boys. Formal cricket whites replaced by the plastic stumps of beach cricket, jandals to be used as soccer goals on the neighbouring reserve, and promises to Mr two that it is not only today that mummy stays home, but tomorrow and more days than he can count on his pudgy fingers.

So, to those of you who have supported me this year, I thank you.

Those of you who have challenged me this year, I thank you.

And to Sheila Hart who is holding a brightly glowing candle that will illuminate the AGM in October 2020, I thank you!

Meri Kirihimete, take care, enjoy your holidays, love your family and I look forward to 2020.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback on topics raised in my blog, or any other issues you’d like to bring to the Society’s attention president@anaesthesia.nz

Ka kite ano,
Kathryn Hagen