The unique circumstances of the perioperative period should be viewed from the patient’s perspective to get a sense of the anxieties experienced by most surgical patients as they are being prepared for surgery, entering the operating room, and then recovering from the surgery. The compassionate surgeon can help alleviate these concerns with her/his bedside manner. The ethical responsibility to address the vulnerabilities of surgical patients rests not just with the surgeon, but with the entire team caring for the patient in the perioperative period.
Because the otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon is the de facto leader of the patient care team, it falls to her/him to set the proper expectations for an ethical and professional interaction with the patient. It is important to resist the desensitization and cynicism that can be observed in all quarters of the surgical profession, which can lead to an indifference that can be sensed by patients at the time they most require caring attention at the bedside. This responsibility is well stated in the Code of Ethics of the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery: “The Physician-Patient Relationship—‘Each patient must be treated with respect, dignity, compassion, and honesty’” (available at entnet.org/content/ethics).
While this is a professional goal each of us strives to reach, the circumstances of a busy operative schedule can be distracting, resulting in short visits with the