A Brief Conversation with…Pinxia Chen

Pinxia Chen

Pinxia Chen, MD
Saint Luke’s University Health System
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Dr. Pinxia Chen currently practices at Saint Luke’s University Health System in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and has been with her group for five years. Dr. Chen is originally from the South Jersey/Philadelphia area and started her career with an anesthesiology residency at Penn State Medical Center in Hershey and a fellowship in critical care at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Chen stated that she then looked for academic jobs with a strong anesthesiology presence in the ICU. However, the academic jobs available in her preferred geographic location left something to be desired and her current position in private practice did allow for strong clinical involvement by anesthesiologists in the critical care setting. When Dr. Chen started there were only two people in the group with formal critical care training. That number has grown considerably since that time.

According to Dr. Chen there are tradeoffs to working as an anesthesiology trained intensivist in private practice. The advantages include a better work life balance which allows for greater involvement with SOCCA and the Anesthesiology section of SCCM. Dr. Chen splits her time roughly 50% in the operating room and 50% in the ICU. Potential drawbacks with this arrangement included the challenges of being a new attending at a community hospital where not all the sub-specialists are represented. Therefore, critical care became the main resource for physicians in the Emergency Department and hospitalist staff.

Despite this, Dr. Chen said that members of her group were very supportive of her efforts. Since Dr. Chen practices in a community hospital setting, her ICU is made up of both medical and surgical patients with medical patients predominating. Dr. Chen leads clinical rounds with internal medicine residents but lectures to both medical and surgical residents on topics germane to critical care. Members of her group are encouraged but not required to participate in clinical research.

As far as the business aspect of her practice goes, Dr. Chen’s group functions as independent contractors at the hospital but are either employees or stakeholders within the group. Most anesthesiology practices were impacted by COVID-19 and Dr. Chen’s was no exception. After the pandemic began, Dr. Chen became a full-time intensivist for several months. Her group was proactive and cut down the duration of clinical shifts in the ICU from 24 to 12 hours.  Elective surgeries were canceled and some nurse anesthetists in her group became extra resources in the ICU. Operating room anesthesia machines were converted to ICU ventilators.

Dr. Chen states that she has no regrets about how her career turned out and that she feels very fortunate. The training in anesthesiology is very different from medicine or surgery and our specialty brings a unique perspective to the ICU. Finally, groups like SOCCA and the Anesthesiology section of SCCM are very important to Dr. Chen since they embrace individuals with a similar training and mentality and help our subspecialty maintain its identity.

Author

Frank O’Connell, MD, FACP, FCCP
Atlanticare
Pomona, New Jersey