When a patient meets an anesthesiologist, the next typical step often involves drifting off before surgery. For the more than 50,000 professionals in the country serving in this role, it requires a close eye to monitor patients before, during and after surgery.
Alexa Lean of Seattle also pays close attention to empathy by connecting on a human level when patients are often most vulnerable. “That first interaction with the patient, especially in that setting, is so powerful. You have about 30 seconds to create a bond,” Lean explains.
Passion for healthcare from a young age
“As an oncology nurse for 20 years, my mom taught me that there are so many different ways to help people and how a career in healthcare can be extremely meaningful,” says Lean. “I always tried to find ways to help promote healthy communities, like traveling abroad to underserved countries to help build houses.”
After attending school on the East Coast, Lean earned her MD and is starting her third year of residency at the University of Washington School of Medicine. As an anesthesiologist, she works with surgical patients at four hospitals in the Seattle area.
Emily Knipper, an attending anesthesiologist with UW Medicine, shares, “I have been honored to spend several hours on call with Alexa. She has an amazingly kind and upbeat attitude, no matter the time of day or night. She has a unique ability to connect with her patients and families that comes from genuine compassion and just a fun, smart personality. She manages to make patients, families and colleagues laugh and smile in the midst of challenging circumstances and long days.”
Advancing care during COVID-19
As healthcare systems across the country have been battling COVID-19 for most of the year, they are trying to find new ways to implement innovative strategies around airway management. Anesthesiologists are uniquely positioned to create and implement strategies for safe airway management of COVID-19 patients. Lean was part of a team that created and submitted a protocol to help keep healthcare providers safe during intubation. As anesthesiologists often put themselves at high risk for infection and risk of spreading the disease, Lean has been working to create a protocol which limits exposure during the process. The protocol was recently published in the Anesthesia & Analgesia Journal.
“I am honored to be recognized as part of the Medline Works of Heart program. It is important to shed light on all the important acts happening across the industry. This truly helps create a sense of community among healthcare workers, especially as many face burnout and are seeking a new sense of energy,” Lean said.
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