Happy New Year everyone. I hope you managed to get some respite from our crazy world over the festive period.
Although there does seem to be a strange ‘medical’ phenomenon that when you take a break from working at 100 mph you get ill. I have heard it referred to as ‘relaxers’ sickness’ (not sure that’s an official ECDS recognised diagnosis!). But it appears I am a case in point.
I was very much looking forward to spending some time with my family over the New Year but found myself banished to another room after getting struck down with a bug – no one wants to hang out with someone with an infectious disease apparently!
And it’s obviously not just me. As you will all be more than aware we are fully into flu season and there has also been a spike in Covid again – so I hope you have managed to avoid the bugs as much as possible.
January is always an extremely busy time in the ED and I know how hard all of you will have been working. On top of the seasonal pressures this year we are navigating some of the added challenges resulting from a prolonged period of industrial action.
The College has previously commented on the strikes – and we recognise the disruption they can cause and the toll their impact can have which is why it is so important that while you are doing all you can to look after your patients, you are doing all you can to look after yourself too.
EM is, by its very nature, fast-paced and stressful. It would be like that if everything was running perfectly – but add in crowding, patients experiencing long waits, multiple competing demands and the moral injury which can be caused by having to practice in these situations, is it not surprising that many EM clinicians are exhausted, disillusioned and burnt-out.
How can you be expected to care for others if you yourself are in need of help and support?
That is one of the reasons I asked Dr Jo Daniels, PIPP Project Lead, Senior Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist, from the University of Bath and North Bristol NHS Trust to look into the issue of burnout and workforce retention in EM on behalf of the College. The findings of her research are published this month in the EMJ and her ‘Impact of staff burnout and how to improve retention’ report is here.
Unsurprisingly it shows across the board, participants reported feeling undervalued due to their basic demands not being met.
Examples cited included things such as ‘sharing toilets with patients’, poorly functioning IT systems, the absence of rest spaces and staff rooms and a lack of private space within hospitals which meant many found it hard to decompress.
The prevailing sense was of ‘just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ while working in under-resourced and high-pressure EDs. The report’s content is sobering, yet sadly unsurprising.
My thanks go to Jo, her team and all of the clinicians who gave their time and shared their experiences.
This important report makes a series of recommendations and we will be sharing it with parliamentarians and policy makers, and we will use it as part of our advocacy work to help improve things for you.
With the Prime Minister indicating he is planning for an autumn election we will be ramping up that work to influence those formulating the parties’ manifestos, and who will be in power this time next year.
We have already set out a very clear set of priorities that the next government should adopt in order to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare in our own General Election Manifesto and I and my team will be doing all we can to get them implemented.
Part of helping to look after your welfare is making sure you try to get a break from work. As I often tell people, it is important to ‘invest in rest’.
I know given our profession that it is not always possible however and that many of you will be – by nature – ‘active relaxers’. I am.
I am most content on my bike – the combination of exercise and fresh air I find helps to clear the head and clear out the cobwebs. And because I may well be some sort of masochist, I have taken my hobby to the next level and signed up for a rather daunting bike-based challenge.
At the end of the month I – along with a group of similarly minded MAMILs (middle aged men in Lycra) and some (age unspecified) women – are heading off to South America to take part in the Trans Andean cycle challenge. This goes from the Chilean Pacific coast to the Argentinian Atlantic coast, covering 1,100 miles in nine days and a daunting climb up to 3,800 metres on gravel.
And, so that someone benefits from my cramps and creaking bones, I have decided to raise money for RCEM’s charity work at the same time. All money raised will be used by the College to support emergency care in low-income countries and advancing medical research programmes and well-being support for EM staff in the UK.
If anyone you would like to support my efforts, there is a just giving page here.
If I’m up to it I may pop some posts on X (Twitter) along the way so do follow me (@RCEMPresident) if you want to enjoy my suffering!
Right, I’m off to buy some more padded cycling shorts and an industrial sized tub of barrier cream.
Adrian Boyle, President, Royal College of Emergency Medicine