Professionalism and performance, Wellness - organisational

Why I WRaP EM – Dr Ashwini Amaratunga

Ashwini Amaratunga
Dr. Ashwini Amaratunga – Emergency Physician, Sunshine Coast Health Service @ashEMdoc – Wellness week lead

 

It was an interesting and somewhat enlightening experience to sit and try to really distil down Why I WRaP EM. My first challenge was to overcome my writing related imposter syndrome, and I can only hope that what I share will help or interest any of our readers.

I think there are 3 main reasons why I WRaP EM,

1.

In August 2016 I started my first job as a consultant in Emergency Medicine. Before I started, my biggest worries were that my technical skills were going to fail me! I read extensively and reviewed my recent fellowship exam notes in preparation, hoping against hope that I would be adequate. There were some hairy clinical situations in the months and years that followed. However, upon reflection now, I would say that 95% of the challenges I have faced are related to my relative inexperience or lack of proficiency in the non-technical skills required in Medicine. These include the skills required to be compassionate, humble, deal with mistakes and conflict, deliver “difficult feedback”, manage an obstructive team member, coordinate a complex resus team, make decisions under stress, facilitate change, call out bad behaviour, and the list goes on and on.These non-technical skills are essential for creating the optimal environment in which our technical skills can flourish and be most effective. In medicine I think non-technical skills are to technical skills what the warm waters of the coral sea are to pregnant mother whales migrating from the freezing Antarctic ocean! – conditions that facilitate thriving as opposed to just surviving.   In my opinion, these non-technical skills need as much attention as the technical skills in our training, and sadly they don’t always get it. You could even argue that the non-technical skills need more of a focus, as acquisition of knowledge and technical skills is easily done via books and online at home. Through my involvement in WRaP EM I want to try and bring more attention to the development and nurturing of these non-technical skills across the various levels of training and various stages of our careers. As I have tried to navigate these challenges to acquire and develop some of these skills … my saving grace has been mentors within (Dr Braganza am looking at you) and outside the WRaP EM team and colleagues in the same boat. I hope that in starting these conversations and providing resources, WRaP EM and I can share the message that this is not easy, that we need to help each other, and I also hope to reciprocate some of what my mentors have done for me for those that follow.

2.

I aspire to (and this maybe naïve) facilitate change in the system within which we work. I feel that health care professionals are constantly being asked – whether overtly or subtly – to ‘be more resilient’, ‘engage in more effective self-care’ etc. Whilst all this is important it takes the focus away from the some of the grass root causes of an increasingly more stressed community of health care professionals. I think the larger systems and organizations in which we work need to improve how they look after their greatest asset (their staff). By ‘look after’ I don’t mean purely in the physical sense of a healthy pay check, a roof over our heads and healthy food in the cafeteria (which is important). We need to work to create workplaces where staff feel emotionally supported, valued and intellectually invested in. I feel that by bringing attention to these issues and helping to design solutions, we at WRaP EM can help make some changes to a system that I regularly see damaging enthusiastic, caring, driven professionals every day. It often seems like an impossible feat, but I try and remind myself that from small things, big things grow.

3.

Finally, and probably the main reason Why I WRaP EM, is the team I have the privilege of working with. A mentor Leo Marneros once said, “it doesn’t matter what you do; it is whom you do it with that matters” and he is so right! The team at WRaP EM inspire, motivate and challenge me. They are like a good family, fiercely supportive and loyal whilst still being my most honest critics. The shared passion, vision and motivation are like elixir to me. I learn so much of the team and they keep me inspired and driven. They are by far the most important reason why I WRaP EM. It is nothing short of a massive privilege to be part of this team.

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