Remarks From the Section Chair
Pamela A. Ross, MD, FACEP
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
Wellness Section activity has been robust since my last communication. The second annual Emergency Medicine Wellness Week was a success and we encourage you to continue to share your wellness stories/videos. Your words and your experience matter – and have healing potential for others.
I have enjoyed my work with my team of leaders for the Wellness Section. As I get to know them better, I find that I am in the presence of some of the most creative, incredible, resilient human beings I have ever encountered. We have been working diligently to continue to bring resources and opportunities for the thousands of emergency physicians to under the day-to-day life stress and strain of an emergency physician. There has been ongoing agreement that emergency physicians need a forum/venue for docs to talk about their own situations in a psychologically safe environment – with someone who knows what they are going through.
With the above in mind, we have expanded our collaborations through a social media private Facebook group called “EM Docs” moderated by Dr. K Kay Moody. I tend to think of EM Docs as an online emergency physician doctors’ lounge where we can ask questions, share experience, educate, and simply connect with others who do what we do. Think of it like our Wellness Section e-list, but a faster/larger network. The EM Docs group has over 11,000 members and a post of any urgency receives a quick response because we are all over the world in various time zones. Plus we work all hours of any given day… weekend… or holiday. Perhaps you have had a chance to read/view the viral blog by Dr. Pamela Wible sharing a letter from an emergency physician who had been revived from his own personal suicide attempt. (http://www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/doctor-revived-suicide-heres-says/)
There was overwhelming connection among emergency physicians to what this physician expressed. It resulted in Dr. K Kay Moody starting a social media initiative called “EMDOC needs to talk.” The intent is to be a safety net / lifeline for a colleague to be able to vent privately about a bad case, stress of some unrealistic expectation, lawsuit, family struggles, etc. When a person posts “EMDOC Needs to Talk” on the private, closed group page, docs who are available can reply “PM me” (PM means private message). From the private messages, they exchange telephone numbers and have their private, personal conversation.
To date, there have been over 300 emergency physicians who have volunteered to be a sounding board for a fellow physician in need. If you are on Facebook, be sure to join the group – there is a wait period to verify you as an emergency physician to help maintain the integrity of the forum. I have taken into consideration the fact that many people are not engaged on Facebook. If the emergency physician who needs to talk is not on social media then I (or other linked member in the Facebook group) can make a post for them by simply posting “EM DOC Needs to talk,” collecting names/numbers of available EM Docs and providing the distressed physician with the names/numbers of EM Docs who have made themselves available to be a sounding board for the physician. Currently, this is simply an idea or perhaps a pilot project, but I think what Dr. Moody has put in place could also work for those who are not on social media. My intent is that if I am made aware of physician calls into ACEP seeking this type of support we will work to facilitate this option for them through our social media connections.
In addition, in collaboration with the chair of the Well-being Committee, Dr. Rita Manfredi, we have submitted a memo to the ACEP Board of Directors recommending that ACEP sign on as a partner for World Suicide Prevention Day. In partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) co-sponsored the first annual World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, 2003 to focus public attention on suicide prevention efforts and activities. Since then, communities, individuals, practitioners, researchers and other professionals around the globe have responded each year on September 10 by raising awareness of the global burden of suicide, implementing prevention initiatives or campaigns, announcing important research findings, developing region-specific prevention strategies and other suicide prevention-focused activities. To assist in IASP efforts, the National Council for Suicide Prevention (NCSP) launched the Take 5 to Save Lives campaign (http://www.take5tosavelives.org). The Take 5 campaign encourages everyone to take 5 minutes out of their day and complete five action items on September 10: Learn the warning signs, Join the movement, Spread the word, Support a friend, and Reach out. Each year, campaign materials are updated to reflect the current WSPD theme.
The ACEP’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference (LAC) took place on March 12-15, 2017 and was once again a big success. Dr. Zubin Damania was a featured keynote speaker. For those of you at LAC, we know this was a real treat. You might know Dr. Damania better as ZDoggMD - the hilariously witty physician who does medical humor, satire and sings parodies that shed light to our victories and struggles as physicians. The Wellness Section secured funding to host an “up close and personal” interview with ZDoggMD on his personal perspectives on physician wellness and will share that with you on our Web site. Stay tuned!
Finally, our editors have done an incredible job of introducing content that facilitates our journey along the pathway for building the new. I am delighted to have an engineer in our midst who understands our challenges as emergency physicians. We are introducing Dr. Katherine Sanders, PhD as a newsletter content contributor who will present her research on workplace design as a key variable to physician wellness, in a three-part series. We believe you will find the focus and detail she has given to this subject to be something you can use as we continue to work to build the new that contributes to our wellness in our line of work. A section grant letter of intent has been submitted to bring Dr. Sanders to the Wellness Section meeting as a keynote speaker for our 2017 ACEP Scientific Assembly to be held in Washington, DC. We remain hopeful and optimistic that the Board of Directors will approve the grant request.
From this feverish, focused typing immersion, I awaken to the things around me… the rhythmic whirring of my ceiling fan and the sunlight beaming through my window. In what seems like no time, I have typed three pages of things I am excited to share with you. In closing, I have to share personal words on burnout from our newsletter co-editor Dr. Randall Levin. I notice they bring me to tears…
Though the list is large, it really boils down to a "toxic" systemic work environment and the changing world of medical practice from a caring and healing-based profession model into a business-based model where the quality of a physician to practice medicine is based on hard-cold metrics (of a unfeeling machine), ignoring the more important part of medicine, which is the Art of Medicine and our ability to connect to and be there for our patients. The other significant component was how we were treating ourselves. We were being thrown into 'survival mode" with communication and interaction breaking down. We build "silos" around ourselves which blocked team building and supporting each other. Essentially I was being blocked from who I was as a physician and more importantly as a spiritual, empathetic, compassionate being. My humanity was being stripped from me, I had to get out or I would not have survived, frequently praying that I would not wake up in the morning. What changed which allows me to be typing to you now, is the second half of the story.
I am humbled to have a team of section leaders who are focused and committed to facilitating the wellness and resiliency of emergency physicians. Here’s to the second half of all our stories…
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