While I hope for a change of pace, it already feels to me that we are hopping into the new year at full speed!
For those of us who have had some time off, the start of the year can be a time of rejuvenation. I feel incredibly fortunate that the roster fairy could grant my wish for a few weeks off to spend with my family over summer; for sleeping in, enjoying the warm weather, following our noses, and trying to get into the water as often as possible.
For many of us, however, January is one of the more stressful months. People needing care flock to EDs when other health services are closed, and clinical referral pathways don’t run to usual plans.
Thank you to everyone who has kept the lights on over summer. I hope that you have been kind to yourselves in moments of rest, taking the opportunity to relax in the shade and spend time with loved ones.
This is also a time of renewal. We’re at the starting point of the 2023 clinical year, with many new faces joining our emergency departments. We are all excited to meet new early career doctors and trainees, and hope that they are feeling welcomed into our wonderful specialty. We can’t wait to see how they develop and contribute over the coming 12 months.
For many hospitals, acquiring and maintaining emergency clinical staff is becoming increasingly difficult. This places mounting pressure on all of us, whether we’re at the beginning of training, or a seasoned specialist. In the coming year, the College will continue to advocate for better working conditions for everyone who works in emergency medicine, and for more government support in attracting and retaining both clinical and non-clinical staff.
While every year comes with moments of celebration, this year is particularly important as it marks ACEM’s 40th anniversary. The specialty has grown an astonishing amount in the last forty years, and as recognised leaders in emergency medicine, we now have a robust sense of who we are and what we do. There is no confusion about the purpose of emergency medicine – we are widely understood, respected, and considered vital to our hospital networks and broader communities.
With this understanding comes responsibility. Many of us occupy both formal and informal leadership positions across our departments, hospitals, and regions. While this is a privileged position to be in, giving us larger scope and opportunity to help others, it can also come with exceedingly large amounts of pressure and expectation.
Part of reaching forty is being mature enough to recognise our own limits. We have seen this first-hand recently in Aotearoa New Zealand, with Jacinda Ardern having the bravery and foresight to step down as Prime Minister. I find that leading is not just about pushing forward through adversity and hardship, but also practicing self-care and knowing when it’s time to move on and let someone new take the reins.
With this mindset comes the confidence and humility to ask for advice or help. Emergency medicine is a team sport, and it is so important that we continue to reach out to each other, as well as colleagues from other specialties or professions and community members, when things are complicated. You cannot understand the perspective of others, and what they can bring to the table, until you ask; whether it’s a new idea, a shared experience, or a friendly ear to listen and shoulder to lean on.
Aside from the big four-zero, we have so much to celebrate this year. We will finally catch up on our awards and admissions ceremonies, allowing us to properly recognise our members’ amazing achievements in recent years. I look forward to the Annual Scientific Meeting which will be held in Canberra this November, and the Winter Symposium to be held in Newcastle, as well as the various faculty conferences, functions and meetings which will be held throughout the year.
These gatherings not only facilitate the sharing of knowledge and skills, but also provide opportunities for us to connect with and inspire each other. Even though lockdowns are now a thing of the past, I still get a thrill from reconnecting in person and cherish the buzz when FACEMs and trainees come together.
This year will undoubtably also present some difficulties. Navigating our fraying health system is a constant challenge, and something which impacts all of us directly. I know that the demands placed on us, as we do our best to treat growing numbers of patients with tight resources, will continue to test our capacity and endurance. I also know that large-sweeping and enduring change to the way we deliver healthcare is possible if we continue to work together and support each other – on a local, regional, and global level.
It is vital that we continue pushing for the changes that must happen to protect our increasingly precarious healthcare system. The College is in communication with other institutions from across the globe who are facing similar challenges, so that we might collaborate and learn from each other’s experiences and raise our collective voices to demand much needed change.
Until next month, thank you, for all that you do. As always, we will get through the good, the bad and the ugly that 2023 has in store for us, together.
Dr Clare Skinner