President's Blog

Heading into 2022

4 February 2022
4.51 Min Read

By NZSAwebadmin
Heading into 2022Main Image

February 2022

I have just read my last blog of 2021 to see where I might go with this month’s blog. It is quite disheartening that I wrote “let’s hope that I can ruminate on some good news in my first blog of 2022 – the successful mitigation of COVID….”

Of course, we are at the beginning of the Omicron chapter and who knows what the details of this will be? However, if we look overseas (our world in data), it seems apparent what is coming our way: a surge of infections that will overwhelm the health system for a short period as it passes through. In our DHB (Capital and Coast) we have ongoing resilience planning, but a clear expectation that for a short period of time (fingers and toes crossed this turns out to be the case) we will be in crisis mode with very limited capacity for elective care. And there will be the adverse impact on other essential services and infrastructure as case numbers will affect all our essential workforces.

We are seeing a major impact on events, most cancelled or postponed in the wake of the move to the red traffic light setting. The financial and personal losses continue. Upsetting as this is, it is preferable to the huge loss of life we are seeing overseas, along with the health consequences of long COVID. The calls to learn to ‘live with COVID like St Elsewhere’ are hard to hear given that life is hardly normal in those places. I think overall we have had many successes as a country in mitigating the impacts of COVID. I’m very grateful to Jacinda and her team for the measures they’ve taken – our death rate from COVID is incredibly low (<1/100,000 population), and in fact we are one of only three countries to report a negative excess mortality during the COVID pandemic. As always, others will use different measures to indicate success or not.

A good friend who has been living in the UK for the last three years made a public comment (yes, on Facebook!) suggesting that NZ could learn from those countries living with COVID. This was mainly a gripe in relation to MIQ as they return to NZ this month. The comment made me feel quite angry and led to some soul searching. Would they feel this way if they were a low income Māori family rather than in the position of white and wealth privilege? What frames do we have that influence our viewpoints? And then how do we manage disagreements? How do we maintain professional and personal relationships when we disagree? Is this possible when we disagree on something that reflects a key value of ours? This is very relevant at present; cancel culture is rife and I’m sure many of you will know someone with antivax views!

Forbes provides the following tips:

  1. Make them feel seen and heard – keep things amicable by validating the other person’s point of view, showing you respect their perspective even if you don’t agree
  2. Try to stay impersonal with facts – phrase feelings well and focus on facts
  3. Avoid absolute statements – absolute statements often lead to defensive behaviour and push back
  4. Approach from a different viewpoint
  5. Pause and come back to it later – especially if the conversation is getting excited!
  6. Make disagreeing part of the creative process – utilise a devil’s advocate to challenge with opposing views
  7. Listen to them without interruption first – interruptions lead to arguments
  8. Assume innocence – if you assume an honest and best intent from the other person, you’ll find it easier to work out why you are disagreeing
  9. Try to find common ground – what can you agree on and how can you focus on this rather than that what you disagree on?

There are many other resources to develop your skills on disagreeing respectfully, a couple I have used are Ted talks, for example, Julia Dhar’s How to disagree productively, and the podcast Principle of Charity (where a topic is debated by two with opposing views, illustrating many of the tips above) that was recommended to me by Dr Sally Ure, Chair of ANZCA NZNC.

And of course, when dealing with COVID and opposing views, a key message is to be kind to yourself. Look after yourself so that you can maintain your resilience in the face of such uncertain times. NZSA has recently partnered with Ovio to provide you with some resources to help develop your mindfulness wellness journey – we launched it in December last year as a new member benefit and emailed the course details to members. Do check it out when you get a moment – you can access either via the email we sent or on the NZSA website in the members’ only section.

One of the questions we have been asking ourselves is what role does the NZSA have to play in the wellbeing space? We want to avoid unnecessary duplication. Of course the bigger question is what role do we play, full stop! This year we are revisiting our vision and strategy and will be seeking your views and advice on the direction the NZSA should take over the coming years. We will be sending out a member survey later this month. Do provide honest and constructive feedback; it is the only way we can grow and better serve the anaesthetic community of Aotearoa New Zealand.