The journey of an emergency physician

Dr Anthony Bell talks about his career as an emergency physician
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Like most doctors who are drawn to a career in emergency medicine, Anthony Bell was attracted by the cameraderie and intensity of the emergency department. But there was also another, altogether more tragic reason for his choice of specialty: the death of a family member while he was in his second year of medical school.

“It made me consider the area of medicine that I would like to be in," Bell recalls, "I wanted to be able to deal with anything that came through the door.”

Since that event Anthony has had a long and very exciting journey leading to his current position of DEM at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital.

After completing his Medical Degree in Perth, he went on to NSW to complete his emergency medicine training and gained his Fellowship in 2001. Anthony also spent some time in the UK where he was involved in prehospital care and retrieval medicine — which he has remained involved in. In 2003, he made the move to Queensland, where he took up various emergency consultant positions including the position of DEM at the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Hospital. In May of this year, Anthony took the leap across the river to become the DEM of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

“I was looking for a new challenge and an opportunity to translate all those skills I’d learnt in a smaller hospital,” he said, “There are some tangible differences between a small hospital that is nestled amongst its community and a tertiary hospital that is all things to all people.”

The main difference being the sheer size. The Royal Brisbane and Women’s emergency department treated over 72,000 patients in 2011-12 and is the largest provider of health care services for Queensland Health.

Whilst the shift from a smaller community based hopsital to a large tertiary hospital has been a new challenge, in Anthony's experience many of the challenges remain the same across all Australasian emergency departments. 

"Patients seem to be getting more complex and using the ED in excess," he said, 'The ongoing demand is not going away."

To meet this challenge Anthony believes a strong departmental culture and good relationships across the hospital are key. Remaining involved in a variety of College committees assists in overcoming the everyday challenges in the ED, as well as allowing him to contribute to the broader issues. 

“I like to feel like I’m making an impact on those different levels,” he said, “Indirectly touching patients and people and contributing in those different areas of the profession.”

Anthony is currently involved in the Scientific Committee, the Workforce Subcommittee and the Hospital Overcrowding Subcommittee. As much as he gives to these committees, he feels that he also gets a lot back. 

 “I was learning stuff locally that I felt I could share with the committee and equally I would learn from that committee and bring those good ideas back to my ED,” he said, “It keeps me engaged with my colleagues, and it helps me to know what kind of thinking is going on in my profession.“

If you think you might like to get involved with the College, find out more here.