Wellness - individual

Reflections of a Maiden Voyage

By Bethany Boulton and Melanie Rule

WRaP EM was created 4 years ago with a coffee shop chat among a few like-minded Emergency Physicians. Last week, we got together to share a cake to celebrate the third birthday of our website and to deliver our first WRaP EM Events workshop. It’s been a steep learning curve but an incredible voyage so far. So we’d like to take a minute, reflect on the journey, and share a few things we’ve learned and experienced along the way.

We can’t remember exactly when the idea for the workshop itself was formed. Of course, isn’t running a conference what every group of self-confessed over-committed Emergency clinicians needs to fill their spare time and improve their own wellbeing!? In fact, it turns out that it was a great idea. The delegates from the inaugural WRaP EM Wellbeing and Performance Optimisation workshop, which wrapped up at Spicer’s Tamarind today, also seemed to agree.

What do novice conference organisers need to keep things interesting? A global pandemic, that’s what! The WRaP EM Events team needed to make some difficult decisions along the way, including postponing the original workshop which fell right in the thick of the travel restrictions in Australia and sadly having to farewell our New Zealand Aotearoa colleagues due to ongoing travel restrictions. But in the end, it was worth the wait.

Interest in physician wellbeing has increased exponentially over the last few years. The concept that healthy physicians provide better care to their patients is finally accepted with growing evidence in the scientific literature. (1)It was never going to be a challenge for the WRaP EM team to find a range of evidence-based topics related to wellbeing & performance that would interest a group of emergency clinicians. Our 2021 workshop program included themes such as Performance Optimisation, Finding Meaning, Communication and Conflict Resolution, Work-Life Balance and Learning From Excellence. The difficulty came with which topics to leave out, but there is always next year…

An evolving challenge was how to promote the workshop in a way that would optimally engage the ED Leadership group.  The first step – in order to minimise the interpretation by ED leaders (who hold the responsibility to approve leave requests) that attending the course required “Annual Leave” rather than “Professional Development Leave” – was to remove the word “retreat” from the title.  A word we now recognise, that was perhaps too reminiscent of a health spa, and perhaps not reflective of the robust, evidence based, peer reviewed curriculum we delivered. 

The second step was to seek, and be granted, approval for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) from our professional body, the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM).  Emergency physicians are fortunate to be supported by ACEM, an organisation that values the wellbeing of its members. In recent years, ACEM has established a member wellbeing network, led by a dedicated staff member with the title “Manager for Membership and Culture”.  The ACEM college presidents – immediate past, present and future – are all active advocates for wellbeing and strong supporters of the work of WRaP EM.  

So, last week, 30 delegates from all over Australia spent three days gathered together focusing on their wellbeing and performance. There was much discussion and sharing of ideas, support of those who were actively facing challenges, and plenty of good food and drink shared at communal meal times. The vibe created (through some planning, a bit of luck and the beautiful surroundings) was one of relaxed camaraderie. In fact, shoes became an optional item for many by day three! 

We felt so privileged to be able to interact face-to-face again after the challenges of 2020 and prepare for whatever 2021 will throw at us! We are proud of what we have achieved at WRaP EM over the past three years since we launched our ideas into the public domain. We are so grateful to have many wonderful colleagues in Emergency Medicine who are willing to come along and share this experience with us, and who put their trust in our program and organisational skills. 

We hope to see many of you back, and to perhaps welcome some new faces, at our next conference which is already in the planning stages for 2022. 

1.         Shanafelt T, Goh J, Sinsky C. The Business Case for Investing in Physician Well-being. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(12):1826-32.

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