Frontline Hero: Dr. Jen Schaffler, Anesthesiologist & Supermom

Dr. Jen Schaffler

Anesthesiologist & Supermom in Traverse City, Michigan

Meet Frontline Hero:

Dr. Jen Schaffler, Anesthesiologist at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Michigan. 

During these strange times of COVID-19 I wanted to feature someone who is truly helping to make the world a better place, what better person than Dr. Jen Schaffler! This Frontline Hero is an Anesthesiologist at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Michigan. She has been practicing for over ten years, helping patients by putting them to sleep for surgery, and keeping them alive throughout their procedure. It’s a lot like being a pilot, and Dr. Schaffler gets her patients to their destination safely, no matter what the conditions. Those conditions have not changed in the face of a pandemic, in face they are more important than ever! PS, she is also a SUPER-MOM and just got a new puppy! I asked Dr. Schaffler a few questions, and despite her crazy schedule, she took the time to tell us a little more…  

We are currently living through a world-wide pandemic, how has this affected you both personally and professionally? Personally, it has been a lovely reminder of the true priorities in life- our families and our good health.  We will likely never have this forced “slow down” again, so as a family we are trying to make the most of it.  Professionally, I couldn’t be prouder of the anesthesia team at Munson.  From our planning and preparation sessions to our initiation of the intubation service and ongoing surgical duties, we have spent hours gearing up to help our community by offering top-notch, up-to-date care for our patients, all while keeping ourselves and our families safe.

What is your current professional advice for navigating a post-COVID-19 society going forward? First and foremost, we will get through this. It’s easy to get lost in “fake news”, so I’d encourage people to find a reliable, evidence-based source to guide your decisions as you return to normal.  Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and stay home if you’re not feeling well.  We’ve known these things our entire lives, but focusing our attention on these simple things will limit the fear and spread of pandemonium.  

How do you see this pandemic affecting the way you practice medicine going forward? I will continue, as always, to take precautions to reduce the transmission of any communicable infectious disease to and from my patients.

Tell us about PPE… Is that N-95 face mask comfortable? Ugh!  No!  There are many shapes and sizes of N95 masks, which require a “fit test” to know which is best for you.  Of course, the one that fits me best makes my face itch like crazy.  And each breath is conscious and requires effort.  Easy to get claustrophobic when it fits as it should.  

Should patients feel comfortable heading into surgery going forward? Why? Absolutely.  Munson has been following guidelines as directed by our governor. Patients can rest assured that all of us at the hospital, from the physicians to nurses to cleaning staff, are most known to keep you safe while you’re a patient.

Why are you passionate about medicine? In a few words, it’s a calling.

What does a normal day look like for you? The only consistent part of my day is the early morning!  I’m out the door before 6 am.  Some days I’m providing anesthesia on my own, others I’m directing multiple ORs with a team of nurse anesthetists. Some days it’s OB, others pediatrics or cardiac or neuro or orthopedics or plastics.  I love the variety.

You are a mother to two beautiful kiddos and full-time doctor at a busy hospital, how do you do it all?!  I don’t do it all.  My husband Pat keeps our ship afloat.  He’s currently working from home, home-schooling a 3rd and 4th grader, house-training a puppy, and keeping everyone fed and happy.  I am so thankful for him.

It took you years to get to where you are today, can you explain the path to becoming an anesthesiologist? After high school, there are 4 years of college, taking lots of science courses. Then 4 years of medical school, followed by 4 years of anesthesia residency. I took a roundabout way through pediatrics residency first, but most anesthesiologists land their first job around age 30. 

What is your advice for aspiring young females (and males) looking to get into medicine? As I said above, it’s truly a calling.  Don’t let anyone talk you into or out of medicine. 🙂  

What are your other hobbies and passions? Ha, I used to have hobbies!  Now I’m a mom who likes to travel, ski and boat with my family.

To end our interview, can you share a funny joke or tad-bit?
I asked my son when he was 7, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  He was thinking for a minute, so I prompted him, “do you want to be a doctor?”  He looked at me with a grimace and said, “mom, only GIRLS are doctors.” 😊