FACEM Dr Tim Parke lives up to his reputation for frankness when explaining why he loves medicine, a 33-year career that has seen him work in a variety of substantive posts in the UK and New Zealand.

“It comes from a desire to bring order from chaos,” Dr Parke says. “Growing up in Northern Ireland in a time that was a very uncertain, unstable, it gives you a deep fear of chaos.

“Emergency medicine is where chaos come in through the front door and order leaves through the back door, hopefully. And to a certain extent a car accident scene is like that – there is chaos and distress, and hopefully even before they reach the hospital your patients are leaving in an orderly way, properly packaged up with their pain attended to and their distress eased.

“And that filters into strategic thinking where in management roles you are trying to bring order from the ultimate system chaos of an overcrowded emergency department.”

The passionate advocate for public health services, emergency medicine and pre-hospital care will be a keynote speaker at the 2019 ACEM Winter Symposium.

Register now

The 2019 ACEM Winter Symposium will be held from 30 April – 3 May in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Check out the 2019 ACEM Winter Symposium website for the programme, workshops and social functions.

Earlybird registrations close 1 February. Register now.

Life-saving campaigner

Dr Parke believes emergency departments are one of the last true beacons of equity, a shared space where anyone and everyone can seek help, and his career has been dedicated to this hope.

He is the Associate Medical Director for the Scottish Ambulance Service with responsibility for major trauma, major incidents, medicines management and emergency care. He is also an Emergency Medicine Consultant at The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and a Pre-Hospital & Retrieval Consultant for ScotSTAR in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Previously he has worked as the Clinical Director for Emergency Medicine in Auckland City Hospital, a flight physician with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and as the Clinical Director for Emergency Medicine for South Glasgow.

Other pre-hospital care experience includes duties with Medic 1 in Edinburgh, the UK emergency response to the Kurdish refugee crisis in Northern Iraq and the 'Lifeflight' national air ambulance service in New Zealand.

He is dually trained in emergency medicine intensive care, and has interests in emergency department flow and targets, emergency airway care, pre-hospital emergency care, and trauma networks.

During his time in New Zealand he was at the centre of the campaign that persuaded the National Government to introduce its six-hour emergency department target.

Emergency departments are modern day sanctuaries

Dr Parke will deliver two keynote addresses. The first is titled Emergency Medicine as a key indicator of a civilised society: UK vs NZ.

“The intention of the talk is not going to be a scoresheet between the two countries,” Dr Parke says. “I am going to take examples from UK and NZ practice and link them to what has developed to what I see as emergency medicine’s role in a civilised society.

“There is a very strong sense, particularly in the UK at the moment with Brexit, that we living in uncertain times and globally people are anxious and feel less grounded and less safe, and because of that there is a real role for emergency medicine to be a sanctuary for all without prejudice or favour.”

Dr Parke will talk about the importance of working to ensure that emergency departments are champions of tolerance, compassion and equality, through moves such as the College’s own draft core values. “If emergency departments consistently live and breathe such values, they can be not only sanctuaries for anyone in distress requiring urgent medical help, but also function as bastions of fundamental human rights ,” he says.

Dr Parke has been a lifelong outspoken advocate for the effectiveness of public healthcare systems in the UK, New Zealand and Australia, and the essential role played by high quality emergency medicine within those systems.

Challenges in the pre-hospital field

Dr Parke’s second address will review developments in the pre-hospital care space with particular reference to Scotland. “Australia has been a world leader in this area for some time,” he says.

“The challenges I am going to talk about will be around geography and weather, which play very much into pre-hospital care and the National Trauma Network in Scotland. I don’t think it will come as a surprise to say it’s not always bright and sunny in Scotland, and moving critically ill and injured patients around in stormy weather, ice and fog with the challenges of very mountainous terrain, I hope might be of interest.”

Excited and anxious

Dr Parke says the honour of being a keynote speaker creates both anxiety and excitement, “with a bit of an imposter syndrome thrown in”.

“It is a brilliant opportunity for me to go back over and spend some professional academic time with emergency medicine colleagues and friends from both New Zealand and Australia,” he says.

Dr Parke adds speaking roles are also an opportunity to organise “your psychic furniture”. “I kind of have had a bit of eclectic career and at times it feels like it has been a bit chaotic. So speaking is a chance for me to bring some order from that chaos and pull together some ideas that have been developing over a career, to draw some thoughts and threads together,” he says.

Dr Parke says that events like the Winter Symposium provides an opportunity for attendees “to reboot their thinking, and stimulates thoughts that allows them to go back to their own department and reinvigorate determination to deal with some of those ‘spiky’ issues they may have been losing some of the impetus to solve”.

“The way that other people look at things and the lens which they view them can sometimes make you have a rethink,” Dr Parke says.