We’re proud to support the drive for urgent change, and a clear and practical way forward for the recognition and self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the lands now known as Australia.
The Voice is an essential step in Australia’s reconciliation journey. It will also be a step forward for the College’s vision for Australian emergency departments, and the broader health system, to be free from racism, discrimination, and inequity, where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can access culturally safe health services that meet their needs. Please take the time to read the College’s position statement, share it with your friends and colleagues, and join us in voting YES.
Meanwhile, across the Tasman, we continue to work towards our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi to improve health outcomes for Mãori through our Manaaki Mana strategy. I have just returned from a brief trip to Te Ika-a-Māui, the North Island of Aotearoa, where I visited emergency departments in Auckland and Wellington and attended inter-specialty meetings. It was wonderful to see the Manaaki Mana artwork and principles displayed in clinical areas, and to hear that creating cultural safety is a high priority for healthcare leaders.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending a conference on advancing women in medical leadership, held by the Northern Sydney Local Health District at the Royal North Shore Hospital – where I worked as a medical student, trainee, and junior consultant until 2014.
Many things have changed since then, but some things that haven’t are the sense of solidarity and support from the community of medical women around me, and the myriad of different ways in which we influence each other.
This conference facilitated discussions where a diverse group of women could share their experiences of sexism within medicine and other professions. Although our backgrounds were different, and we operate in different areas of practice, I still felt that strength of connection forged over many decades of working and learning together.
Gender inequity is something that different generations of doctors have experienced, and talk about, in different ways. While discrimination against women in leadership may not be as overt as it once was, our concept of what a leader is, and what leadership should look like, is still largely dominated by masculine, patriarchal and Eurocentric models.
The most pressing issues in gender inequity are structural and will require long-term change, but, with bravery and innovation, it is absolutely possible to challenge structures and rebuild them. In particular, we can create gender equity around parenting and caring expectations. The keynote speaker Dr Kerry Chant talked about how leadership is not constant and exponential, and that needing periods of time away from leadership should be normalised, especially for women in leadership positions.
On the 27th of May, we recognised Emergency Medicine Day. This year’s theme was ‘Safety in the ED’, which was a particularly poignant reminder of how topical and challenging this issue is at a personal, organisational, and international level. We must work together to ensure safety in the ED and, change the culture that tells us a lack of safety is just part of the job – because it isn’t.
Two weeks ago, I had the chance to visit colleagues in Launceston and Burnie in Tasmania, and we spoke of the impacts of violence and aggression on ED staff. It was good to connect with FACEMs and trainees who are each working so hard to meet the needs of their communities, while managing systemic pressures, and to workshop some strategies to improve safety for healthcare workers.
This month, we also launched our 40th anniversary celebrations, which will be picking up steam as the year rolls on. I greatly look forward to celebrating this momentous occasion within our community, whether at our upcoming events, or in our online spaces.
One of these opportunities will be at the 2023 Winter Symposium, which will be held in Newcastle from the 18th to 21st July. This symposium will explore how we transition to a “new normal”, as the COVID-pandemic becomes less acute and with increasingly recurrent climate crises. With registrations now open, I hope to see many of you there.
Finally, the College launched the new digital YourED. As an avid reader and writer myself, this magazine is particularly close to my heart as it is purpose-built for us to easily celebrate and share our stories and ideas. I would highly recommend visiting the site, sharing the stories that impact you, and submitting stories of your own. The most read story so far is about the first Aboriginal-led emergency department shift in Cairns. We hope that soon such things won’t be newsworthy, as they will be so normal.
Until next month, thank you for all that you do. Whatever the next month brings we’ll get through it like we always do – together.
Dr Clare Skinner