The Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists (SOCCA) is an organization comprising critical care anesthesiologists and additional members who have an interest in critical care anesthesiology. Formerly named the American Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists, the name was changed to SOCCA to better represent not only American critical care anesthesiologists, but to better reflect its international membership involvement and opportunities. The focus of SOCCA’s efforts involves supporting the particular needs of critical care anesthesiologists who have diverse backgrounds and expertise that encompass the care of patients in the O.R. as well as critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). The members of SOCCA are well aware of the opportunities and challenges associated with the practice of critical care medicine – as well as the unique value of combined anesthesiology and critical care medicine training to critically ill patients. Critical care physicians, with their specialized training and abilities, will be needed to treat the highest-acuity patients whether in a “traditional” ICU or other hospital setting. The demand for critical care physicians is expected to continue to increase in the United States and elsewhere, leading to a predicted resultant shortage of such physicians.
The unique skills of critical care anesthesiologists provide added value within hospital systems. While providing clinical care to critically ill patients, these physicians immerse themselves in the high-acuity inpatient setting, managing ICUs and critical care resources. In this expanded management role, critical care anesthesiologists are involved in an ever-larger number of hospital functions. With ICU care consuming a significant portion of hospital resources, the role of critical care anesthesiologists in managing these resources has become even more important to health care systems and hospital functions. Critical care anesthesiologists often are asked to contribute by performing other roles within hospital systems. Several examples include leading quality improvement and patient safety initiatives; promoting process improvements to provide excellent, efficient care; and the development of clinical protocols and guidelines. The background provided by continuous interaction with other services and hospital functions while caring for critically ill patients provides a profound understanding of the perioperative flow of patients through the enterprise. With recent discussions of the development of the perioperative surgical home, critical care anesthesiologists, in their expanded role and with their experience in the perioperative care of critically ill patients, can be key contributors and resources for these types of initiatives. Critical care anesthesiologists’ roles also extend to one of the fastest-growing areas of concerns – end-of-life diagnosis and treatment providing value to health care systems. With vital contributions within their institutions and the experience and exposure gained through these efforts, critical care anesthesiologists can be prepared and poised for health care leadership roles.
As a result of the roles assumed by and the value critical care anesthesiologists provide to the institution, these physicians are also in a good position to provide career guidance and mentoring to anesthesiology residents. Most critical care anesthesiologists have diverse experiences in the care of patients in the O.R. as well as in the ICU, and they can provide a broad perspective of career opportunities in anesthesiology, including, but not limited to, critical care medicine.
Critical care anesthesiologists can serve as mentors for anesthesiology residents and can encourage medical student interest in considering anesthesiology and critical care medicine as career options. In this capacity, they can ensure that trainees are cognizant of the wide range of options offered by anesthesiology and critical care medicine, including a diverse choice of career paths with varied clinical practice opportunities, as well as the ability to have administrative, educational, and other leadership roles within academic and community settings. To further encourage the education of all anesthesiology residents in the basics of critical care anesthesiology, SOCCA produces a resident’s guide focused on relevant topics for anesthesiology residents.
To encourage interest in the fields of anesthesiology and critical care, SOCCA has encouraged medical student memberships while also offering a mentoring program for current anesthesiology residents interested in the field of critical care anesthesiology. The core anesthesiology program directors annually receive an invitation to identify an anesthesiology resident with an interest in critical care and sponsor that resident to attend the SOCCA Annual Meeting the day preceding the start of ASA’s annual meeting. The SOCCA mentoring program begins with a separate breakfast that enables anesthesiology residents to meet with leaders in critical care anesthesiology, including SOCCA’s current president, and ends with a discussion at the conclusion of the day. The mentoring program involves pairing the interested anesthesiology resident with a SOCCA member actively practicing critical care anesthesiology at a different institution. This pairing provides the resident a structured setting in which to spend time with a critical care anesthesiologist from another institution; thus allowing discussion to be focused on topics of interest to the resident while providing information on options afforded by a critical care anesthesiology career. The SOCCA meeting gives anesthesiology residents and fellows the opportunity to meet and converse with leaders in their field. The poster rounds moderated by an expert in critical care provide another forum for discussion and represent another opportunity, whether as a poster presenter or as an attendee, to interact with leaders in the field of critical care anesthesiology. The collegial and constructive environment created by the poster facilitators offers a unique setting to practice presentation skills and receive feedback on projects presented. The SOCCA meeting offers opportunities for those interested in aspects of critical care anesthesiology, including those anesthesiologists interested in learning about the advances in critical care anesthesiology, such as patient care, research and education.
Please visit SOCCA’s website (www.socca.org) for more information about the society and the upcoming annual meeting. Hope to see you in San Francisco at SOCCA’s Annual Meeting on October 11!
Brenda G. Fahy, M.D., FCCM is Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Florida, Gainesville.