Morale amongst Emergency Medicine providers is at a crushing low. If you were to walk through any Emergency Department (ED) or spend 5 minutes on #MedTwitter, this would be abundantly apparent.
Slogging through a pandemic, EM providers put their heads down – they put their personal health at risk, stepped up to create innovative ways to help with PPE shortages, had many end of life discussions with patients and volunteered with public health vaccination clinics, amongst other things. Now, EM providers are faced with further after-effects of the pandemic. Patients who don’t have their primary care needs met, postponed surgeries and delayed diagnoses has led to a sicker patient population. Add into this significant ED overcrowding and wait times due to a lack of inpatient beds (or hallway spaces at this point) AND significant nursing and staff shortages – well sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words ….
You have a crew of EM providers that feel paralyzed by an inability to do their job, and to provide care to our populations. Because of the pandemic, we have become increasingly more isolated within our institutions. We often feel like “us against them”. Them being the system that is forcing us to do Emergency Medicine with one hand behind our backs. But it is important to recognize that the sense of morale outrage and burnout we feel is not isolated. This is a NATIONAL problem.
It has been 3 years since the last in-person CAEP Conference, and there has probably been none more important for the morale of the Emergency Medicine community. On the surface, the CAEP conference is there to provide updates and teaching on core EM topics, discuss advances and challenges for the future of the discipline and provoke changes through budding research plenaries and presentations from EM resident’s and staff alike. On a deeper level, however, CAEP 2022 became the recognition that we’re not alone in this.
“Vivre Ensemble” was the slogan of this year’s conference. Translated to English it means “Living Together”. And that is exactly what we have been doing over the last several years. We have all been experiencing similar challenges and roadblocks, and that sentiment of solidarity and global sense of community radiated between sessions at the conference. What could have been a melting pot of despair, rather became a rallying call. The song “stand by me” echoing in the background of pictures submitted by physicians working on the frontlines during the pandemic, during one luncheon, provided the perfect backdrop to unify the troops and bring us together.
“As long as I know I got you right here, right here by my side”
Emergency Medicine providers pride themselves on resiliency. This was evident in stories shared between colleagues in the hallways – where hugs and smiles flew everywhere, many seeing each other for the first time in >2years. The importance of resiliency was highlighted formally in sessions for residents, on surviving residency and transitions to practice. Dr. Bigham and Dr. Paterson reminded residents of the importance of setting up their support network and making the most of their training to address their future goals. However, more than just exchanging resiliency stories on battle scars and the difficulties overcome, CAEP 2022 brought us together to highlight a unifying theme of HOPE.
HOPE that when all working together, we can accomplish many things – the plenary on Climate Emergency demonstrated just that. Although the NHS is not in Canada, the traction they gained for change motivated by the sense of community created towards bettering climate change, was truly inspirational. The session proved to us that we to can innovate around a precocious healthcare system, whose crumbling structure has been fully exposed by the pandemic.
CAEP showed us that our story is one of solidarity, resiliency and hope. Because the future is bright, and change is easier in numbers.
Cheers to many more CAEP conferences to lift our spirits. And to #LivingTogether through the adventures in Emergency Medicine.