Months ago this day was flagged as the start of Emergency Medicine Wellness Week, an annual celebration initiated years back by our colleagues in America (ACEP).
Clearly today is not what any of us expected it to be as recently as February, but now perhaps this week, Wellness Week, is more important than ever. I want to thank you all for everything you are doing – everything you are sacrificing to be on the frontline and for the skills, professionalism and passion with which you are delivering care in these extraordinary times. It has been and is incredibly difficult to confront this global challenge with ED very much at the frontline. I know the sense of vulnerability that many of you are feeling, the anxiety, the concern and the stress.
I encourage you at all times to try to be kind.  As we are all stressed and confronted by this pandemic, its impact on our lives, our health, our families, our EDs and our communities, we must understand that we are all in this together and now more than ever we need to be kind to ourselves and we need to continue to be kind to others.
It is clear by now that this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. We need to pace ourselves and not burn out early as more difficult times undoubtedly lie ahead.  Remember in “normal” times the rewards we get from showing kindness to our patients, our (ED) people and our communities, and try to build that into every day.  It’s what can help us to carry on to the finish line (and there will indeed be a finish line).
Normally this week is about sharing, about getting involved, about bright faces building for better. In light of the circumstances we find ourselves in, this week is not going to be that. Instead we are going to spend each day this week highlighting some of the support and resources available from the College for you dealing with COVID-19 as a member or as a trainee.

  • Clinical guidelines for workforce wellbeing
  • Support services – EAP, DHAS, mentoring and peer support
  • Peer-reviewed wellbeing resources

Resources will be shared through the College’s normal channels – the Tuesday Bulletin, on social media, the Trainee News this Thursday.
An issue I know has been near the top of everyone’s minds is supply and use of PPE.  Indeed my counterpart in the UK, Katherine Henderson, President of RCEM, said to me today when we met to discuss cross-College and cross-country issues was “There is no wellbeing without PPE”, and I certainly second that notion. 

Today we are updating the College guidelines on COVID-19, in particular the segment on PPE. I give you my commitment that we will directly communicate with every national, state and territory government to seek clarity and reassurance that supplies will enable use of PPE in accordance with our guidelines. The safety and wellbeing of our frontline medical workforce must be front and centre in the ongoing response to COVID-19.
At this time, I also reiterate the College’s commitment to supporting all members, trainees and staff as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. I continue to speak daily with the College’s executive leadership team as we monitor and respond to the situation, and indeed remain in regular (in some cases daily) contact with national CMOs, other Colleges, politicians and the media as we advocate for your best interests.
We will keep providing you with relevant information as appropriate and as it comes to hand, and again stress we will do everything in our power to reassure and hopefully relieve some of the anxiety and uncertainty our trainees and other members may be experiencing, particularly in regard to examinations and training.
I encourage you to visit the College’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage, where you will find the latest information and updates from the College, including the aforementioned guidelines, as well as updates on College activities, including examinations, training and events.
As we grapple with the ongoing fluid situation, our commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of our members, trainees and staff is unwavering. So too is the principle that as far as possible, we seek to minimise disadvantage to trainees, while ensuring the integrity of the FACEM Training Program.
While we acknowledge there are uncertainties in the ongoing situation, our commitment remains to supporting you and promoting wellness with as much information, support, transparency and flexibility as possible.
Someone last week reminded me there is that poem about the days of the month – every month with its 30 or 31 days, except for March and its several thousand. I’m sure this month and the next few may feel just as long, but I think it is important to try to find some humour in things. These small things can help sustain us. There will be tough times ahead but our collective strength, experience and leadership will get us through to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Kia kaha – be strong
Nga mihi nui

Dr John Bonning
ACEM President