Others may think of it as a broad specialty that deals with everything – from acute traumas to complex illness, to mental health and coughs and fractures. As Brian Zink wrote in his history of emergency medicine, Anything. Anyone. Any time.

As emergency doctors, we know that, in real life, we straddle the intersection between the hospital system and community-based care, and many of us believe that we are the safety net for gaps in health and social care.

So, who are we really? What is emergency medicine, and what will it look like in years to come? What skills will we require to meet the needs of patients in the future?

The ‘Building our Future Summit’, held in Melbourne late last month, brought us together to find out. Leaders in all areas of emergency medicine across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand met and discussed what it means to be an emergency physician, and how we would like to shape and design our specialty into the future.

We heard from passionate people, working in the clinical heart of emergency medicine, as well as using a broad range of higher-level skills in areas like research, Global Emergency Care, education, climate change advocacy and leadership.

Together, we reflected on our identities as emergency physicians, the collective culture of emergency medicine, and the scope of our achievements in the past 40 years. We also shared some confronting truths about the challenges that face our discipline, the need for us to adapt to changing populations and pressures, as well as the potential opportunities that lie ahead.

It was a productive and engaging event, and it included some difficult conversations about the limits of our practice and the realities of working in our current health system. I believe this discussion was necessary, and showcased a maturing specialty willing to put our concerns on the table so that shared issues can be used to constructively inform the future direction of our work.

I was grateful to receive so much positive feedback, and was glad to hear that many others, like me, found the summit program and panel discussions inspiring. I was heartened by how many people believed the event started and facilitated an incredibly important dialogue concerning what emergency care currently looks like, and how it could develop. I encourage you to continue these conversations in your own circles.

I am proud of the social contract we have, caring for people and communities. I am proud of the work we do. It is a privilege. We are privileged to meet vulnerable people on what is often one of the worst days of their lives, and to be in a position to help make that day better. 

The summit would not have been possible without ACEM members and staff involved. A huge thank you to everyone involved in organising and running the event, and especially to everyone who spoke or contributed to the panel discussions.

The opportunity to have members who work in so many different areas of emergency medicine come together and engage in one conversation was invaluable. I hope that we can continue fostering open channels of communication throughout our ever-expanding and broadening community.

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
ACEM President