President's Blog

The NZSA President, Dr Sheila Hart, writes a regular blog with opinions and reflections of issues affecting the specialty and wider health system.

Stepping up beyond clinical anaesthesia

It’s late one evening as I sit to write my first NZSA President’s blog.  As someone who generally has a lot to say, I am lost for words trying to decide on interesting topics that will resonate and be of value to readers. Possibly there is some imposter syndrome going on , but mainly it’s because I'm a little out of my comfort zone, as blog writing is new to me. I can hear regular blog writers telling me it’s not that hard...and I remind myself that when you put up your hand to be part of an executive committee you will often be seeking challenges beyond clinical anaesthesia! You will often be motivated to volunteer for these extra roles to keep your career stimulating, from a sense of duty, a belief in good professional citizenship, and supporting and growing our specialty.

Volunteering above and beyond our job also has personal benefits.  My time on the NZSA Executive (five years) has amply demonstrated that.  Our Executive is made up of anaesthetists from different hospitals around the country, which affords the opportunity to develop relationships with those you would otherwise never meet.  Being connected to our stakeholders keeps me informed of what is going on in the wider health arena, beyond anaesthesia in my hospital. I attend meetings with ANZCA Council, the Australian Society of Anaesthetists, our Aoteaora NZ Anaesthesia Continuing Education Committee (ANZAEC), Australia and NZ Tripartite Anaesthesia Data Committee (ANZTADC) and more, and see first hand the work going on to benefit our specialty. There are also the global groups we work with including the WFSA and the Common Issues Group.  It's a privilege to advocate for our specialty, along with the New Zealand National Committee, to keep anaesthesia present in the minds of those influencing how we work e.g MOH, Pharmac.  I am often asked ‘Why should I join the NZSA, what does it do for me?’ A lot of the advocacy work we do goes on behind the scenes, but is essential to help ensure we are heard and have influence. NZSA gives us a seat at that table, and that is very satisfying at a personal level.   

The society has three core areas of work: advocacy, community and education.  Honouring our commitment to education for our members we went ahead with the NZSA meeting Emerge, Reflect, Reconnect in October, following the postponement of the NZSA/ASA Combined Scientific Congress due to COVID.  For a while we were not sure if it would ever happen with the changing COVID levels, but luckily the stars aligned and we had a great meeting under level 1 with an interesting and thought provoking program.  Of course a lovely aspect of this was the opportuity to catch up with friends and colleagues, something that has been missing this year.  Many thanks to the organising committee for pulling this off in such a short time frame.   Being part of an organisation that can bring our community together in this way, especially in the current climate, is immensely satisfying.

So what is the cost of being an NZSA representative?  That is an easy one to is time.  The precious commodity we would all like more of.   COVID has made this year a very challenging one, although the time required to attend all the above mentioned meetings has reduced as overseas travel was curtailed.  We have continued to meet virtually, and while we all accept that zoom is no replacement for a face to face meeting, I am impressed at how quickly it became a normal part of my week. I've also seen the benefits of zoom meetings at work – increased attendance as people have the flexibility to dial in from home, or elsewhere. 

It is a constant battle to achieve the infamous work life balance, but what does that mean?  I prefer the term ‘work like integration’, which I first heard used by Sheryl Sandberg (author of the book Lean In) as there are times when life is a priority and times when work is more of a priority.  It’s okay to work more if it gets you to where you want to be and you enjoy it.  So I guess I have accepted that the two years of presidency will be a bit more work focussed.  Having said that, I will still find the time to ride my bike, and nurture my new puppy that entered my life two months ago (not sure that was the best timing on my part, but she is gorgeous!), and of course, continue my day job. My goal is also to learn Te Reo as I feel having a basic understanding is an essential skill in health advocacy and management.

So what for 2021?  The promise of a vaccine, a glimmer of going back to normal?  I hear the words of Siouxsie Wiles who, at our conference in October, suggested there is no going back, and that life will never be like it was pre-COVID again. 

So onwards.  I am off to walk the Kepler next week, taking advantage of what I thought would be a quiet time on trails turning out to be anything but, with all walks pretty much sold out: locals taking the time to explore home now that overseas travel is off for a while.

I am looking forward to what the next two years will bring, particularly working alongside the Chair of New Zealand National Committee,  Dr Sally Ure (we have offices next door to each other in the Wellington department!), Dr Suzi Nou, President of the ASA, and Vanessa Beavis, President of ANZCA.

Noho ora mai


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