But we measure the seasons differently in our departments, as presentations and workloads change and shift from month to month. Summer beach injuries are replaced with influenza, the busy holiday season makes way for a more measured and routine transitional period before things pick up again with winter viruses. Nature, in its own way, runs its course here, too.
Or at least, this used to be the case.
We are increasingly having to operate in departments that aren’t slowing down and providing us with the moments of calm we would normally expect. Days with a regular number of presentations still feel overwhelming, as pressures associated with access block cause increasing delays and difficulties. Our seasonal clocks are out of whack, and because of this, we can no longer rely on the natural ebbs and flows of emergency departments to provide us with moments of rest.
This puts us at serious risk of fatigue and burnout, and at times like these, we must put in place our own boundaries and make time to recoup. As we transition into winter, I urge everyone to keep an eye on their own mental health and sense of well-being, making a conscious effort to check in and create distinct and sustainable boundaries between work and life.
We are seeing increasing numbers of people presenting to ED with symptoms of mental illness. It can be challenging to ensure people get the care they desperately need, when appropriate mental health services are often expensive, inaccessible, and the system hard to navigate. This is even more difficult in in rural, regional, and remote areas.
It is vital that we continue to work with patience, understanding and empathy, and advocate for better mental health support, both in and outside of our emergency departments. We are seeing this now, with the College pushing for better systematic mental health support in the Northern Territory.
This last month has been busy for the College. In late March, the NSW state election took place, which provided another opportunity for us to advocate for better support and conditions for emergency doctors. Late last year, I partook in the NSW Ambulance Ramping Enquiry. The recommendations from this provided a substantive and robust framework from which we could advocate for improvements across the emergency medicine, and wider healthcare, system.
We welcome the new NSW Labor government and look forward to working with them over this next term. We will be advocating that the government implements the recommendations from the Parliamentary Inquiry into Ambulance Ramping and Access Block. I look forward to working together with the new government, and other health organisations, to deliver the healthcare system people in NSW deserve.
Another highlight of the last month was the ACEM Awards Ceremony, which took place at Federation Square in Melbourne. This was such a special opportunity to recognise the achievements of our members over the last couple of years, and to make up for the lost time.
We were privileged to have one of the College founders, Dr Edward Brentnall, attend as a special guest. With this year marking the 40th anniversary of the College, it was a fantastic opportunity to both look back on ACEMs foundational values, and to celebrate how they’re reflected in our current workforce, and the wonderful contributions currently being made to the field of emergency medicine.
During the ceremony, I was reminded of how collaborative and supportive our specialty is. Many of the awards focused on teaching and education, as well as establishing inclusive cultures in EDs to ensure everyone feels supported and safe. Seeing these initiatives developed so broadly across our two countries reinforces, for me, the unique set of values emergency specialists live by, where teamwork and community are so central to what we do.
Until next month, thank you all, for all that you do. Whatever the April brings, we will get through it like we always do – together.
Dr Clare Skinner