Keep on Rockin´ in Emergency Medicine

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First and foremost, a huge welcome to all of our new members! We are so excited to have this year’s interns up an at ‘em in our departments already. While you may have years of training left ahead of you and a ton to learn, you bring such a great energy to work and are a palpable reminder of the excitement so many of us felt entering residency – an enthusiasm sometimes forgotten as our training drudges on over the years.

But taking the occasional moment to remember why we love EM is imperative to our longevity as clinicians, and perhaps we can use our newly minted co-residents as a reminder to ourselves to do just that.

The other day I found myself at a farewell party for a friend seated next to his parent who had a very negative impression of EM in general. It seems the high burnout rate of emergency physicians, long ED wait times, and other notorious features of our challenging medical system had left him under the impression that all ED doctors are overworked, under-appreciated, unemotional, and stuck dealing with the “mess” since we we “have to see everyone” who presents to the ED.

While it may seem like there is some truth in what he was saying, we need to bind together as a specialty
and offer the rest of the world a re-frame
.

We don’t “have to” see everyone; we get to. We are privileged as providers to not have to worry about what a person’s insurance is or if they have pre-authorization before we begin treatment. While fair coverage is extremely important, in EM, it does not impact our decision to deliver the highest quality care we can to every individual we see in the ED.

We aren’t emotionally numb; we are well-trained to compartmentalize in order to continue providing excellent care to all our patients, putting their needs over even our own. Strangers present to our departments and trust us to be there for them in their most vulnerable moments, and we are proud to care for them with intellect and emotional depth whether in a crashing pediatric patient in one room or a viral URI in the next. We must continue to support each other through what is one of the most difficult to understand and unique emotional rollercoasters life could possibly muster, and foster a community of providers that believes in decompressing and supporting one another as fervently as we do being willing to deal adeptly with this struggle in the first place.

We do not and will not simply suffer in a system with many broken parts; we advocate for our patients every day on the local, state, and national levels, and we will work tirelessly to innovate solutions throughout our careers. Emergency medicine is the gateway to the remainder of the healthcare system, and we must challenge ourselves to stay engaged and bring our perspectives to the table as our government and many systems re-evaluate our country’s delivery of care.

We all have bad days, and it’s easy to let them pile up and create a space for burnout to sneak in. But as we are reminded by our eager interns roaming our halls for the first time, what we do is special. And awesome. And something we fought like mad to be able to do. And that we should be grateful to have the opportunity to experience every day. Remember: advocacy is an active process for each of you, your patients, and our collective communities.

Want to find out how to make a difference or get involved? E-mail me any time at president@emra.org.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world!

Alicia Kurtz, MD

Alicia Kurtz, MD

EMRA President, Chief Resident, UCSF Fresno, Fresno, CA, @aliciakurtz_md
Alicia Kurtz, MD

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