Bulletin 125, January 2021

From the Editor, Dr Helgi Johannsson

Welcome to the January Bulletin.

I write this in early December having just come out of the lockdown, visited my gym two days in a row and generally enjoying the sight of London coming back to life. I even visited the College in person yesterday, to chair a session of the Winter Symposium. There may not have been an audience there, but actually being on site feels like progress, especially with the hope of a vaccine glinting on the horizon like a spring sunrise.  

Will the promise of immunity allow us to go back to the way we were before? I certainly hope not, and after reading about the many areas of progress in this issue of the Bulletin I am confident you’ll agree with me. The way we deliver education and examinations has changed beyond recognition, and I want to highlight how our teams have transformed the delivery of our exams in a timeframe we would have thought impossible prior to the pandemic (see page 5). Nationwide, teaching sessions, interviews, and meetings have been moved to a virtual platform, with occasional glitches, but generally smoothly.  

I think the pandemic and the enormous changes it has brought about has made us realise that despite public perception, we are not superheroes. We are human and we need to look after ourselves and our colleagues in order to be effective and safe at work. After a trainee teaching session on wellbeing yesterday, my trainee mused about quite how well she is treated in anaesthesia compared to her previous placements. I am proud that we in anaesthesia have a reputation for looking after our trainees, but we must not get complacent. There are still many things we can do to improve. One thing I want to highlight is from Lucy Williams’ article ‘Am I good enough?’ (see page 16). We train people every time we anaesthetise, and getting our trainees into a ‘growth mindset’ with a positive frame of mind not only enhances their learning, but in my experience improves the team dynamics of the whole workplace.  

In this issue we continue with some of our themes of the year. We look at how PPE has increased medical waste, in the bigger subject field of sustainability (see page 44), and our article by Hamish McLure and Kirstin May on inequalities in anaesthesia highlight quite how big our staffing crisis is (see page 50). We are not training anywhere near enough anaesthetists for the needs of the UK, and vacancies are already an enormous problem in many areas. Training positions have not kept up with demand, and I suspect in the future we will be thankful for those trainees who didn’t give up on not getting a ‘training’ post, but continued to obtain the CESR equivalence. 

I want to end by thanking all those that took part in the Young Anaesthesia Artist 2020 competition (see page 8), and encourage you all to continue contributing either in art form, or in the form of a great 800 word article. 

May 2021 bring you joy, hope, and immunity.