What are we doing in EM?

Screenshot 2014-06-12 08.46.02It’s been a tough few months in UK Emergency Departments and has caused me recently to do a bit of thinking, as I knew I was losing a bit of my zeal and enthusiasm for our specialty. Yes, there’s the constant unrelenting pressure over targets and working under very trying circumstances with overcrowding and understaffing on an almost daily basis. It remains an enigma to me that for a lot of aspects of our work aviation is taken to be a shining example of how CRM should be done, yet a pilot would not take to the sky with 170% capacity and half the crew missing but we do, carrying on with a”Dunkirk spirit” to the best of our abilities.

So much appears to be put in our way, when trying to care for our patients.  We are drowning under the mass of bureaucracy and paperwork, it reduces time available for patient care. Common sense and practicality have gone out of the window, you can’t admit a patient to the short stay ward for a few hours without completing a host of paperwork required by outside agencies. Cannulation forms, an assessment of VTE risk, estimation of alcohol intake and smoking habit, consideration of hidden harm, a falls assessment, etc etc. A folder bulges with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), some about important clinical topics, but others seem appear to be bureaucratic ticks in boxes.  We even had to write an SOP  and subsequently approved in numerous places to allow a patient to sit on a chair in a clinical area rather than a trolley, but only after consulting the SOP on how to write SOPs!

Unlike colleagues in other specialties, where patients appear more grateful for their care, those attending the ED seem rather less so and referrals for inpatient admission are rarely greeted with thanks.  As much as we all try to persuade ourselves we don’t need external validation to feel valued I for one will openly admit I feel a whole lot better about myself and the job I do if just occasionally someone says thank you, well done or good job.

The final straw came when I did a brief online questionnaire which revealed I’m at very high risk of burnout. Whoa! I’ve only been an EM consultant for 6 years, part time at that. So the rethink began and I’ve come to the conclusion that what I personally, and I believe we as a speciality, need, as corny as it sounds, is  to get back to basics. To do the fundamentals really well as part of team working.

burnout

I’ve distilled this down to three areas: self; patients and environment. For myself I will try to always be a role model to others: to smile, think positively and value myself and others. My patients I will keep informed, take away their pain and encourage regular observations. The environment we work in should be professional, clean, tidy and quiet. Most importantly of all I will never forget that at the heart of all of this is care and compassion for our patients.

None of these are revolutionary requiring a policy or SOP, they are common sense, low cost, communication based basics that everyone, medical, nursing and support staff can fully participate in. So no-one can change my enthusiasm and zeal for the job except me, I’m trying to get the fundamentals spot on and encouraging others to do likewise, will you?

Dr Sarah Robinson

Consultant in Emergency Medicine

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