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As Emergency Physicians we are expert in dealing with crises; unexpected, fast moving and difficult situations, often for protracted periods; generally we often thrive on doing so. Even the hardiest among us, however, would acknowledge that 2020, and the ongoing response to COVID-19 in its various stages, has pushed our limits.

Few, if any of us, have contended previously with the myriad personal and professional complexities, challenges, emotions, anxieties and stressors this pandemic has presented, and for such a length of time. With this virus currently endemic in the world, we are in this for an even longer haul. Suppression (of outbreaks) and mitigation (of the effects on vulnerable populations) remain our focus.

While the work of our members and trainees, in providing the highest standard of care to our communities, has been consistently excellent throughout the pandemic, it is important also that we acknowledge our own frailties among this. We are all only human, and therefore must continue to show compassion to ourselves and each other to ensure the sustainability of our ongoing, individual and collective responses in the pandemic marathon.

As a College we maintain an important focus on the welfare and wellbeing of our members and trainees so we can continue to care for all our patients; being there for each other and reaching out as we need to.

ACEM has a partnership with an assistance program provider, offering services to support members and trainee wellbeing. This includes counselling services to support you with professional, educational or personal matters.

The College has also created the ACEM Wellbeing Network, where you can access information, resources and initiatives that support you as emergency medicine practitioners. Here you can create ‘virtual discussions', discover wellbeing events and campaigns and learn about what your colleagues are doing to support themselves and each other. I would also draw your attention to the new workforce wellbeing audio series, as well as our dedicated Membership and Culture Unit, who are available for members and trainees. The team can be contacted via:  [email protected].

Acknowledging the additional pressure on trainees dealing with the hiatus in examinations we also have a Trainee Support Unit, with staff who can provide advice to FACEM Trainees, concerned about their progression in training as a result of particular circumstances. All of this is about acknowledging we are in tough times, and amid that, we must take time to focus on wellbeing.

Another important component of promoting wellbeing is acknowledging success and great initiatives. On that note, I encourage you to get your nominations in for the ACEM Wellbeing and ACEM Diversity Awards before submissions close on 7 September. 

Established in 2018, this annual Wellbeing Award celebrates the initiative(s) of an individual member, group of members or an emergency department that have resulted in the enhancement of wellbeing for their emergency department colleagues.

New in 2020, the ACEM Diversity Award is part of the implementation of the College’s Discrimination, Bullying and Sexual Harassment Action Plan. By embracing diversity, the emergency medicine profession will continue to attract and retain a skilled and talented workforce dedicated to excellence, whilst also fostering inclusive communities - both inside and outside emergency departments.

On Thursday 10 September, we also recognise RUOK Day, a day where we are encouraged to ask our friends or colleagues “RUOK?” to foster conversations about mental health.

Such initiatives complement the College’s ongoing advocacy work, as we strive more broadly for improvements in our workplace and practices, all ultimately aimed at improving wellbeing for our crucial emergency medicine workforce. While there are still many challenges, we should all be proud of the enormous strides we as a College have made, living our core values of Equity, Respect, Integrity and Collaboration, advancing our specialty of emergency medicine, improving the care we provide and supporting each other.

To truly appreciate how far we have come, we must acknowledge those who have come before. It is therefore fitting to acknowledge the passing of Dr Tom Hamilton, ACEM’s inaugural President, in Perth in August. Tom was one of the giants of our College and specialty, a true pioneer, and you need look only at the tributes shared on our website to get a picture of the esteem and fondness in which Tom was held by so many.

Tom’s family has graciously shared a link of the intimate private family funeral held for Tom in Perth, for those who knew Tom and would like to view the moving service. Once travel restrictions allow, a significant memorial event will be planned in 2021 for Tom’s family, ACEM members and others whose lives he touched over an illustrious career.

Vale Dr Tom Hamilton.

Dr John Bonning
ACEM President