It was me. I’m one of those doctors who did the thing that elicits gasps of shock and sympathy when you tell the story. I missed a diagnosis and a patient died. Not just any patient, but the spouse of one of my work colleagues. It was in my first few years of doctoring and at the time, I was working in a collegial vacuum. It nearly broke me, but it was this devastating experience in my formative years of medicine that ignited my interest in physician wellbeing. Only through reaching out for help did I find my way again. Throughout my career, I hope that I can be the one that someone reaches out to when they are facing a professional precipice. Even more than that, I want to stop them from finding that ledge in the first place.
A little over 12 months ago, there was a coffee chat meeting of a small group of likeminded Emergency Physicians, all passionate about the wellbeing of health professionals. That small group went on to form a collaborative of doctors, nurses and educators, led very enthusiastically by my FACEM colleague at QEII, Dr Una Harrington. We called the project WRaPEM – Wellness Resilience and Performance in Emergency Medicine.
It has long been thought that good communication, kindness and gratitude are soft skills less worthy of formal instruction in our medical institutions than the more obvious technical skills required. These days, there is such strong evidence that looking after ourselves, and each other, is not only beneficial for the individual, but is linked to better patient care, outcomes and a healthier organisational culture.
Over my years as a doctor, I unfortunately have lived experience of how damaging ineffectual leadership can be. It has become my passion to research, investigate and share information on self care, organisational change and compassionate leadership for the wealth of positive outcomes on offer. I am not yet the leader that I know I can be, but by participating in endeavours that will bring the hidden curriculum out from the shadows, I know that I have begun a rewarding journey to that place. I welcome any, or all of you on that ride.