American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Surgeons train to provide lifesaving care, and in active practice they dedicate themselves to ensuring the best possible outcomes for their patients. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has created a new dilemma for many of us. While we partner with our colleagues in infectious disease and critical care to eradicate this scourge and ensure the health and safety of our loved ones, it can be difficult to avoid experiencing burnout and all the negative mental and physical effects associated with that condition. The leaders of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) anticipate that this issue of Bulletin: COVID-19 Updates will inspire you to take action to preserve your well-being, redeploy to the areas of your institutions where you are needed, work with your colleagues to develop evidence-based best practices, and demonstrate your leadership during this time of crisis.

In this issue, we outline the resources available to members of the ACS to determine whether they are experiencing burnout and to help them engage in necessary self-care.

We also offer some advice for surgeons who have cut back on their time in the operating room, either because of aging or because they not performing elective operations during the pandemic, on how they can retool to provide care in the intensive care unit (ICU), the emergency room, and other critical care units.

We provide information about the projected toll COVID-19 is taking on the availability of hospital resources and the projected deaths from this pandemic. We also note, however, that a great deal of promising research is under way to find therapeutic agents that can be used to improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients. We also include a new statement from the Joint Commission that supports allowing staff to bring their own standard face masks or respirators to wear at work when their health care organizations cannot routinely provide access to protective equipment that is commensurate with the risk to which they are exposed. 

COVID-19 is taking an economic toll on many practices. Herein, we summarize the protections in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress passed and President Trump signed last Friday. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other government agencies already are taking steps to implement the provisions in law and ensure the financial viability of physician practices. Further, based on contributions from our advocacy team and others, CMS is taking historic and unprecedented steps to equip the American health care system with maximum flexibility to respond to COVID-19: CMS Hospitals Without Walls.

This issue includes a new section as well—Messages from the Frontlines—stories from physicians who are combating the COVID-19 epidemic right now, sharing their perspectives and lessons learned.

To that end, the ACS wants to hear how COVID-19 is affecting you, both professionally and personally. Share your story or experience to help ensure the College can continue to advocate on your behalf. And spread the word via social media. To amplify access to our information, the College has registered #ACSCOVID19 with Symplur Healthcare Hashtags. Use #ACSCOVID19 in all social media messages and to link those messages to ACS communications.

This morning, former NFL quarterback and member of the Football Hall of Fame member Dan Fouts, partnered with ACS to launch a public service announcement encouraging people to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. We expect other well-known individuals to share similar messages, which we will post on all our channels and include in future newsletter editions. If you are active on social media, please share this message to your followers.

ACS Executive Director David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, was featured on National Public Radio’s Hear and Now program discussing the need to cancel and prioritize surgeries amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

All of us at the ACS extend our gratitude to surgeons involved in ICU care, and all our physician, nursing, and paramedical colleagues in the frontline trenches of this epidemic who are caring for the sick and placing themselves at risk for the greater good of their communities. We extend our sincere gratitude to those health care professionals who are bearing the greatest risks for the greater good of the American people.

The American College of Surgeons is committed to providing the surgical community with information that can guide quality care during the COVID-19 global health pandemic. College leadership and others review information before it is released. However, given the nature of the situation and how quickly the science is evolving, what is presently thought to be accurate may change. Information will be updated whenever possible.