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Extending kindness…to ourselves

Monday June 8, 2020

Dr Sean Stevens, Chair, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners WA

I was fortunate enough in 2002 to attend a talk by Canadian Dr Joe MacInnes, one of the three-member crew who first dived to the Titanic. It was a high-risk situation and whilst he acknowledged the importance of technical capabilities, Dr MacInnes said the most important capability was teamwork. He spoke eloquently on their dive and on leadership but finished with his three most important pieces of advice: “be kind to one another, be kind to one another, and be kind to one another”.

During this health crisis, each and every one of us will be seen as leaders by our patients, our friends, family, colleagues and our wider community. In the next six or more months, we will likely see deaths and significant morbidity in those that we know, love and care about. Our profession will be called upon to make difficult choices and to provide honest advice in challenging circumstances.

The best thing we can do to ensure that we work well as a team and protect our community is to be kind to one another and to ourselves. Don’t assume that the ED physician is being obstructive by telling you to keep your patient at home. Don’t yell down the phone at the ICU registrar for refusing your patient a bed. Make sure you thank the public health unit nurse for their constructive advice after being on hold for 30 minutes.

We also need to extend this kindness to ourselves – we are all going to make mistakes before this is over, so examine for lessons learned and then move on.

I was heartened to learn recently on The Good GP podcast from Dr Sarah Newman of the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service WA (DHASWA) that as a group, we are a pretty resilient lot. We have a lot of reserve, insight, intelligence and can cope with situations that many people could not.

We are, however, not that great at seeking help. Before this is over, I would venture that many of us will need help. The RACGP, AMA (WA) and DHASWA are working to improve the availability of resources for doctors’ health. I would encourage all of you who do not yet have a GP to contact DHASWA and get the details of a suitable GP. Please also note the contact details for DHASWA below, as 90 per cent of doctors don’t know of DHASWA until they’re in extremis.

I would also encourage you to reach out to your colleagues during these difficult times and where possible, show compassion. It’s amazing how much of a difference a small gesture can make.

Thanks to each and every one of you for what you’ve done already and for what you will do during this crisis. When you’re stuck with not knowing what to do, remember “be kind to one another, be kind to one another, be kind to one another”…and be kind to yourself.

 

Doctors’ Health Advisory Service

Doctors’ Health Advisory Service (WA)
Phone 24/7: (08) 9321 3098
www.dhaswa.com.au