Managing stress

Surgeons can learn how to cope with stress at one of 
the major symposia in Paris

Aidan Hanratty

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019

Panellists at the Keep Calm: Stress Management During Cataract Surgery symposium during the 22nd ESCRS Winter Meeting in Belgrade, Serbia. Image courtesy of Vasilios Diakonis, MD, PhD
Stress, anxiety and depression are all common factors of modern life. With everything from work to politics and sports likely to cause a spike in blood pressure, it’s almost impossible to avoid stressful aspects of life.

The medical profession is no different. Recent research published in The BMJ showed that the risk of depression was 66% in medical students with high levels of burnout, with 35% of clinical students showing high levels of burnout, up from just over 25% in pre-clinical students.

While ophthalmologists are regularly shown to be among the most satisfied with their chosen field in medicine, it is still essential to watch for and manage stress. This can manifest itself both in terms of operating on patients and in the day-to-day running of a clinical practice, with all its associated paperwork, overheads and so forth.
A special symposium at the 37th Congress of the ESCRS in Paris will look at this particular factor of life for the ophthalmologist. In a wide-ranging series of talks, doctors can see how to manage specific difficult cases and complications, as well as learning about stress on a broader level, and having the opportunity to learn techniques to combat stress in the moment.
Doctors will talk about complications like the running out rhexis (Brian Little, UK), the constricting pupil (Boris Malyugin, Russia), the wobbling lens (Vladimir Pfeifer, Slovenia), the challenging phakic IOL (José Güell, Spain) and the DMEK flap upside down (Marc Muraine France).

There will also be discussions on understanding and quantifying stress (Michaela Bayerle-Eder, Austria, and Stefan Palkovits, Austria).
Dr Palkovits will discuss quantifying the stress of the surgeon during surgery itself. Using a tool called Neuromaster to evaluate different stress parameters including sweating, heart rate and respiration, his department measured surgeons of different skill levels during cataract procedures. They then evaluated a range of methods to help reduce stress. Dr Palkovits will present this work as well as examining other methods of qualifying stress.

These talks are aimed at cataract surgeons, those performing IOL implantations and corneal procedures. But it’s not just the surgeon who needs to be at ease for these surgeries to be successful. Andrew Presland from the UK will give a talk on relaxing the patient, who must never be forgotten in discussions about surgery!
One of the highlights of the 22nd Winter Meeting of the ESCRS in Belgrade was a talk given by record-breaking freediver and motivational speaker Stig Severinsen, Denmark. He spoke about Breatheology, a method of breath control that can help shift the way doctors respond to stress.

Controlling your mind
“Nothing is more powerful than breath control,” Mr Severinsen told ET Today. “The way you breathe is the way you feel, so when you breathe too quickly it is not productive. It produces adrenaline, it increases the heart rate, it gives you less ability to co-ordinate your movements. With surgery, that is not what you want.”
Speaking about the benefits of controlled breathing, he continued: “When you control your breathing, you control your mind and you don’t go into the negative spiral of panic. Panic leads to bad decisions and will not optimise your surgical precision.”

Mr Severinsen will be speaking in Paris on “Relaxing the surgeon: stress control for your next surgery”. Anyone who attended the presentation in Belgrade will know that a fascinating and entertaining talk awaits.

This Symposium will be of great interest to young ophthalmologists starting their careers as well as more seasoned colleagues who may be looking for a new approach to stress both in and away from the workplace.

Surgeons Under Stress will take place on Sunday 15 September at 11.00 in the Auditorium