Editor's Forum, Wellness, Workplace, Personal

Editor's Forum: The Heart of EM

Happy New Year to my EM Resident family!

The holiday season is over. Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Diwali has passed and most of us have finally recovered from our new year’s eve celebrations. Although many are a little disappointed the festivities have ended, there are people out there who are not. Studies have demonstrated that the holiday season can exacerbate the feelings of loneliness some individuals face on a daily basis. Medical students, residents, and some attendings are no strangers to feelings of desolation. We are often in a juxtaposition where, although we are surrounded by people (hospital staff, patients, mid-levels, doctors) all day, we do not encounter meaningful or quality conversations that involve us.

When I ran for the EMRA Board, my speech involved talking about this subject in the context of “mental health.” Better mental health and wellness, it seems, involves increasing grit, utilizing deep breathing, and incorporating yoga from what most of us have been told repeatedly. I believe we are missing some foundational conversations involving the culture of medical training and organizational medicine - a culture that is ripe to take advantage of residents and attendings. We need to have the hard conversations: let’s talk about an accurate count of duty hours, fair and appropriate treatment, and accountability when poor behavior is demonstrated by staff/consultants/etc. 

The latest survey by the American Medical Association (AMA) demonstrated that 2 in 5 physicians screen positive for depression. Medical students were also noted to be 3 times more likely to die of suicide than their counterparts in the general population. Why is this happening? Are we good advocates for ourselves, attendings, fellow co-residents, and medical students? How can we do better?

Over the past several years, like many of us, I’ve endured instances that positively and negatively affected my well-being. Times I felt supported and others not. Times I have been quiet, as not to upset the status quo, and others I have loudly spoken up for myself and others. 

The times I have been the most proud, of course, are the times that I have demanded a change and actually witnessed and experienced the transformation. Through these experiences, I have realized, residents have an innate power in our hospital systems. We have the combined support of our co-residents, faculty (core and not), program directors, designated institutional officials (DIOs), ACGME, and EMRA. I have realized that when I speak up and have made intentional actions, I see a positive change that not only benefits me, but also effects positive downstream improvements unbeknownst to me. 

I have always said personal stories and the written word are both incredibly powerful.

Thus, I am starting a NEW series in EM Resident where residents, medical students, and  attendings can share their stories: “Heart of EM.” I want to hear about your struggles, your failures, and your triumphs. Even if you tried and failed, I welcome it. Please share your experiences, even if you don’t want to share your name (requests for anonymity will be honored). YOUR stories are humanizing and will help connect all of us globally through shared experiences and emotional intermediaries. 

Serendipitously, we already had a submission for this edition that will help kick-start this new series (“Bring Your Shovel” - and your tissues, fair warning). Take a moment to read it. Take a few more to add to the conversation. 

We are always looking for relevant content, so if you a compelling case you would like to share or a personal story - email me at emresidenteditor@emra.org. I am looking forward to making our specialty feel more connected.

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