North Bay surgeon heads CPSO

BY KATHY STAKELBERG

Dr. Steven Bodley originally considered a career as a writer, but admits he wasn’t very good at it. But his belief good communication is vital to everything one does, carries through to his current work as an anesthesiologist at the North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC), and as the president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).
Bodley received his medical degree from Western University in London, Ont., and gained his Royal College Fellowship at the University of Toronto.
Bodley has been doing anesthesia and pain management in North Bay since 1988. He served on the executive of the OMA Section on Anesthesiology from 2006 to 2009, and then was elected as a member of Council of the CPSO, where he was recently elected president.
The CPSO regulates more than 40,000 Ontario medical doctors.
When asked what words of wisdom he could impart on students considering a career in the health sciences field, Bodley said good communication skills with patients are key.
“The student has to feel confident they are the right person to take on other people’s problems. You need empathy and, at the same time, the ability to remain objective and those two things are often difficult to reconcile.
“The important thing physicians have to learn is to recognize when communication isn’t going well. Sometimes it’s kind of subtle. If somebody’s angry, if somebody’s feeling marginalized, you need to delve into that. Most patients will respond to a physician who communicates honestly with them,” said Bodley.
In fact, the vast majority of complaints to the CPSO about physicians involve issues of communication.
“In my work as a pain physician, the communication issues often involve discussions around opioid use. Those patients are really challenged and a lot of them have high expectations about what they need and want, so you have to be able to be honest with them and say, ‘look I don’t think opioids are going to help you,’ and that’s not always easy. It can be the same with any therapy being considered.”
During the 1990s, opioids were the mainstay of treating pain and higher doses were necessary to manage pain..
“I didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid, I helped to sell it. I was involved in continuing medical education events at the time, which promoted high dose opioid therapy.
“But there was always a part of the patient’s pain that would remain unresponsive to opioids, there was always pressure to increase the dose, and as doses got higher they would start to do damage and actually make pain worse. So then you ended up with someone with chronic pain who is also addicted to opioids,” explained Bodley.
Today, creating awareness of the risks of opioids is a top priority with the CPSO.
At the North Bay Pain Management Clinic, Bodley is switching about five or six people a month from high dose opioid therapy to suboxone. He considers it lifesaving work.
Under new guidelines, physicians are being more cautious initiating opioids, but they also have legacy patients who need help to understand the risks.
Forcing these patients off opioids, especially abruptly, is something the CPSO discourages because it can be dangerous, said Bodley.
“I try to teach people how to cope with their pain. Just giving them an injection and walking away was not a very satisfying way of helping them.
“It’s not like fixing a broken arm for example, where you generally have a single intervention that fixes the problem. With chronic pain you have partial victories. With support and education, we hope patients can take control of their illness and start to do things that work…regular exercise and mindfulness therapy, which are front and centre for managing pain but are not the easiest things to do. Many people still want the doctor to be Mr. Fix It.”

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