April 13, 2021

A Safe Space to Talk

By Randall M. Levin, MD, FACEP-Life
Immediate-Past Chair, ACEP Wellness Section

The “Let’s Talk” forum is one of many that can be found within ACEP’s EngagED platform, but its design and purpose is unique from the other group discussions.

EngagED is, in many ways, a social media outlet developed as a resource to allow our ACEP colleagues to communicate and connect on a dedicated internet platform. The idea was to provide members a means to easily communicate with one another, to form like-minded communities with common interests encouraging interaction, and to help facilitate ACEP section business, meetings and collaboration all in one space. The communities within EngagED make it easy send out communication to specific groups without mass emails, and it serves as a library of resources, where photos, videos, white papers, articles, and various documents can be stored. ACEP members can sign up for multiple communities to stay updated on relevant issues and share ideas. EngagED also included the ability to post polling questions to get a feel of the pulse of our membership related to various topics, which may be very useful for generating research ideas.

By 2018, the EngagED platform was up and running and I was starting my tenure as the Wellness Section Chair. One of our objectives for our section was to be open to our members’ ideas and inquiries. In early July 2019, a member asked our section if ACEP had a resource for those of us who may be having some challenges with their professional or personal lives and needed a space to talk. They were looking for a “place” where we could have a listening ear in a non-judgmental environment, where issues or challenges could be spoken about openly. A place where someone outside of their own partners, departments, or hospital could be open for listening and being a friend. A place to prevent feeling isolated and to permit being able to share your own experiences.

We all know it can be very hard to talk to those around you, whether professionally or personally, when it might jeopardize careers or career advancements, or possibly aggravate personal relationships. Sometimes we just want to talk so we don’t feel alone.

Essentially our Wellness Section was being asked:

“Is there a supportive community or a means of creating interactive communication in a psychologically safe environment where these conversations would be welcomed without fear of repercussions?”

In response to this question, we started planning how to construct such an environment. What came to mind is that ACEP had already created the EngagED platform, though new at the time, started to create the feeling of being connected to other members in ways that were not previously there.

Our first challenge was that conversations in EngagED are typically public, and post authors are identified. For our community, this could lead to “word” getting back to department or hospital leadership. The answer was straightforward: Allow for someone to post a question, a concern, a comment and have it be anonymous. No one would know, not even the moderator of the page, who is there to ensure discussions follow ACEP posting guidelines. If we could allow for anonymous posting, we could meet the criteria to create a safe space and prevent possible repercussions. This community would not only be there as a listening ear, but it would create the feeling that you are not alone in your experiences and challenges. We all have a common denominator of experiences that are prevalent in our specialty. Sometimes we just want to know that we are not the only ones with issues, concerns, or going through the burning-out process.

We ran the concept and issues of responsibility and liability for this community through ACEP’s legal counsel and leadership, and we were given a green light to create the “Let’s Talk” community, sponsored by the Wellness Section. The next question was, should we automatically have everyone part of the community (similar to ACEP’s All-Member community), or do we make it an opt-in community? We did not want to overwhelm members with posting notifications, so we chose the opt-in approach. We also wanted to clarify that this community was/is not a group or individual therapy session, but a place of camaraderie – it should not be used in place of professional therapy.

With all this in mind, the “Let’s Talk” community went live immediately prior to ACEP19. We had members joining with a wide range of work and life experiences and interests. Some of the first community members included leaders in the wellness field, ACEP   leadership, and well-respected colleagues. Though we initially had members within the wellness section join, it is designed as an all-inclusive community, welcoming everyone. All members are welcome to join because we all understand the unique challenges and circumstances in emergency medicine.

“Let’s Talk” was created before the pandemic and before the concept of the Peer Support Project. It was created with the idea that we could be there for each other, to support each other, to care for each other.  Though it is in a virtual format, I look forward to seeing how we can expand “Let’s Talk” to meet the ever increasing need to care for ourselves so that we can care for others.

I would encourage you to join the “Let’s Talk” EngagED community where you can find a safe space to share your experiences and challenges with others.

Any questions or comments, please contact Randall Levin, MD, FACEP-Life through the EngagED platform or staff liaison Joseph Kennedy

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