Nonphysician Sedation Providers in Africa: What Counts and What Is Being Counted?

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Nonphysician Sedation Providers in Africa: What Counts and What Is Being Counted?


JournalAnesthesia & Analgesia
Article typeOther
Publication date – Jul – 2022
Authors – Asemu Yohannes Molla, Nsereko Etienne, McIsaac Dan Ian, Bould M. Dylan
KeywordsAfrican Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS), anesthesia providers, postoperative outcomes
Open access – Yes
SpecialityAnaesthesia
World region Central Africa, Eastern Asia, Middle Africa, Northern Africa, Southern Africa, Western Africa

Language – English
Submitted to the One Surgery Index on August 4, 2022 at 12:46 am
Abstract:

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – WB Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking, 1963.

Does your anesthesia providers’ level of training impact your outcomes? This question has been widely evaluated and debated in the perioperative literature. With increasing demand for surgical and procedural services facilitated by anesthesia care globally, an answer will continue to be sought. Van der Merwe et al1 in their article “Postoperative outcomes associated with procedural sedation conducted by physician and non-physician anesthesia providers: findings from the prospective, observational African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS)” published in this month’s Anesthesia & Analgesia, have added to this discussion, with a secondary analysis of data from the African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS). Although their study provides some interesting insights into the outcomes of procedural sedation across the continent, our opinion is that the question remains largely unanswered.

To date, most of the literature evaluating the association between anesthesia care provider type and outcomes has focused on anesthesia care in highly developed health care systems. Questions have focused on task-shifting, where the responsibility for tasks is shifted from a more highly trained health care provider to health workers with shorter training and fewer qualifications, and task-sharing, where both levels of providers perform the task and may even work closely together. Examples include family doctors in Canada providing unsupervised anesthesia care in community hospitals after adding an additional year of training in anesthesia to their family medicine residency program; certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), practicing independently in many US states; and French anesthesiologists supervising nurse anesthetists with a 1:2 ratio. Ultimately, the hope is that by shifting/sharing tasks, access to care will improve with less-resource input and with similar (or in the case of task-sharing) even safer outcomes.2

Countries with a gross national income per capita of <$12,696 US dollars (USDs) are often (problematically) lumped together as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)3 regardless of the profound diversity in this categorization, which contains around 85% of the world’s population.4 There is a critical shortage in human resources for health (HRH) globally, particularly in anesthesia. However, HRH are one of the most complex parts of health systems, with huge international variation in terms of numbers of health care workers, their training, their point of entry into training, their scope of practice, interprofessionalism, resilience, burnout, and retention of health care workers within the system.5–7 Developing a deep understanding of how to most effectively and efficiently provide safe anesthesia care is an urgent priority in improving global surgical outcomes; however, nuances in context make generalizations problematic.

Ven der Merwe et al1 aimed to evaluate this question by comparing patient outcomes when procedural sedation was delivered by nonphysician versus physician anesthesia providers. The primary data source, the ASOS, is a landmark study, where investigators collected a large amount of data (11,422 patients) over a relatively short amount of time, with good coverage of a broad geographic area.8 Its largely descriptive statistical analysis has been highly informative of perioperative outcomes in Africa, which appear to be much worse than previously published global data. In contrast, the Van der Merwe et al1 study is a small subset of the primary data (336 patients, ~3% of the full cohort), with a more complex comparative statistical analysis, with the authors concluding that receipt of sedation from a nonphysician provider was significantly associated with increased odds of severe complications. While these results must be interpreted with great caution (as we will outline below), the findings raise important questions about perioperative health care systems in Africa.

OSI Number – 21705

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