Every physician is required to obtain continuing education credits. Depending on a when one was board certified, the types of boards one has, and what state you live in, the number of credits needed each year varies.
At least once a year, I try to attend some sort of conference in order to to add to my knowledge about how to treat pain. This year I have ventured into the new realm of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia (ASRA). Since pain care crosses the line into a number of different disciplines, one of the best ways to improve is to pick up knowledge outside your normal specialty.
Thoughts From The ASRA Meeting
For the last several days I have been at the annual pain meeting of the ASRA. It is a group of about 5,000 practitioners, which is actually one of the smaller major groups involved in pain management. Each group has a different focus, and finding a good balance is hard. So far I have enjoyed the meetings; it’s like being back in an intense school all day long. Best yet, most of the information has been very relevant to my regular practice. It also has included a lot of practical knowledge, and there hasn’t been too much esoteric academic information or stuff aimed at an someone just beginning to practice pain medicine. Many of the pain conferences are aimed at physicians who do not do any advanced procedures or only at physicians doing injections, and both extremes can be lacking balance for patient treatment.
One of the most important things a conference does is challenge your thinking. Hopefully questions are entering your mind about what can you improve upon and how to do better patient care. A conference like this is great. It is not focused on a single topic and there are many areas of my practice it could impact. General topics have ranged from very specific aspects of implantable pain technologies to the best ways to evaluate and treat very specific medical problems. One odd topic that has caught my interest is how to deal with changing government regulations to prevent burnout of physicians.
The hot topic at any of these conferences is now opioid use and abuse. However, at a pain conference it is not about a crisis of addiction, but a crisis of lack of treatments available to treat complex pain. The money is being spent on addiction management and not finding treatments that would manage the root cause of pain, and thus markedly reduce addiction.
The hardest thing at a conference (besides sometimes staying awake) is trying to sift through what is truly good information. After going to enough of these conferences, one begins to recognize those who are in it for self promotion. Every conference seems to have several people who promote the latest fad. If there is no money to be made with regards to a topic, the information is probably more science and less sales.
Learning new information is good. Missing seeing patients is tough, but the time gone is for the good of all patients in order to provide the best care. Benefits will be made on everything from what to do for patients to learning new things that may help tough patients. New treatments now will be tried for everything from CRPS to knee or elbow problems. The only sad part of going to these conferences is that often I see no other pain physicians from my location, but I’m certainly glad I went to this conference.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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