Uncategorized, Wellness - individual

ED Muso’s – Music, Medicine and Connection

Dr Clare Skinner – Director of Emergency Medicine at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital in Sydney

Q+A November

Conversation with Clare Skinner on ED Muso on Oct 30th

  1. The ED Musos project is growing from strength to strength. What do you think it is that attracts all of your colleagues to come and perform with the group in 2020?

Social disconnection has been such a challenge in 2020. Most of us choose to work in ED because we are interested in connecting with other human beings. Emergency medicine is a complex specialty which requires close teamwork and good communication.  

The ED Musos began as an idea on social media, and what I thought would be a collaboration with a small group of colleagues ended up with nearly 200 video submissions. I think the main appeal of the ED musos is social connection. The participants feel connected through their creative performance, and the audience feel connected to the performers when watching the videos.

The warm response to the ED Musos has demonstrated the close personal and professional links between ED clinicians across Australia and New Zealand. In many cases people did not realise that their colleagues had musical interests and talent.

2. Why do you think there seem to be so many ED staff who value music and the performing arts so highly?

ED clinicians are jacks-of-all-trades – we end up knowing about 90% of every other specialty. We are the sort of people who have broad interests and will have a go at anything, so it is not surprising that many of us have explored and developed our musical interests.

There are many parallels between music and Emergency Medicine. The ED is like an orchestra – sometimes you play lead, sometimes you are in the background, and sometimes you are the conductor – but at all times you have to work with other people towards shared outcomes. As a musician, you are part of a greater whole. Symbiosis is required to play a Beethoven symphony – just as it is to run a smooth resuscitation.

I grew up playing classical piano but moved into jazz as a teenager. Being comfortable with improvisation – and using patterns and principles to make sense of uncertainty – are key skills in Emergency Medicine.

There are other ways in which the performing arts are relevant to working in ED. To me, many of our communication challenges can be improved through use of performance techniques, such as learning scripts and playing characters. When we train as teams, role play is very useful for rehearsing and optimising our communication performance.

In both clinical work and the arts, preparation and practice is a major part of improving your skills. You can’t expect to play Chopin well the first time you sit at the piano!

3. To move beyond ED Musos for our last question, you’ve recently been elected the President of ACEM. What do you think should be the top priorities over the next 5 years for EDs across Australia and New Zealand in the area of staff wellbeing? 

Genuine connection, engagement and inclusion in college activities (across culture, career stage, geography and gender) is my main priority. We’ve come a long way with gender in the last few years but there is still a lot of work to do to get our leadership more truly representative of our members, trainees and the community we serve.

A surprise positive of the pandemic is that we have learned to communicate effectively on virtual platforms. While meeting in person will always have a role, I hope that new technologies will allow options such as online town hall style meetings, which might promote better sharing of information and ideas between college leadership and members. Without the barrier of travel, I hope that this might allow broader and more diverse participation in decision-making, although careful moderation will be required to make sure this happens.

I also hope to work on the role and identity of Emergency Physicians. Our specialty has come of age, and it is time to give some serious thought to the way we want to work, the sorts of careers we want to develop, and the way in which we are perceived and understood by our medical colleagues and the broader community.

About Clare Skinner

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