Anaesthetists learn to ‘’think big’’ and explore the elephants in the room

Domestic violence, mental health, the under-representation of women in science, and other key issues facing society are being placed under the microscope by anaesthetists who are meeting in Brisbane from May 12-16.

While the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) features dozens of significant research papers, workshops and presentations on clinical and scientific advances the program also encourages delegates to broaden their perspectives beyond the medical realm.
Meeting convenor, Brisbane anaesthetist Dr Bridget Effeney, said it was important for medical professionals and specialists to debate and explore issues that affected not only their patients but themselves and their peers.
Dr Effeney said the emotional welfare of anaesthetists, while a sensitive subject for some, should be discussed openly in forums such as the annual scientific meeting.
‘’We know that anaesthetists are a high risk group and yes, this is a novel way of approaching the issue but it also an appropriate opportunity to raise awareness in the profession,’’ she explained.
The meeting will also hear how there needs to be greater representation of women at scientific meetings – both as keynote speakers and as research presenters.
More than 2000 local and international anaesthetists, pain specialists and other medical practitioners have gathered for the scientific meeting at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Keynote speakers for the meeting’s welfare stream include Australian author and founder of the Emotional Fitness program Cynthia Morton, orthopaedic surgeon Professor Munjed Al Muderis, who fled his native Iraq for Australia in 1999 and child protection advocate Hetty Johnston.
Dame Quentin Bryce, the former Governor-General and chair of The Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, is presenting the inaugural Professor Tess Cramond oration on Saturday May 13 at a formal reception at the Queensland Art Gallery. Professor Cramond, a pioneering Brisbane anaesthetist and pain specialist, died in 2015, aged 89.
‘’Tess Cramond was deeply affected by stories of domestic violence in her time spent in the US and this was one of the reasons why she founded the Multi-Disciplinary Pain Centre in Brisbane. She realised that the psychological impact of violence was just as important as the pain itself,’’ Dr Effeney explained.
 ‘’We are looking after the victims of violence every day in our medical practices and we need to be better advocates for these patients, ’’ Dr Effeney said.
‘’The incidence of domestic violence knows no social boundaries so we all have to look after each other. It’s about advocating for our patients and also our colleagues and peers. We can, and should, do more to raise awareness of this as an issue in our community.’’
It is hoped that the installation of a life-size inflatable elephant inside the convention centre – an initiative of the Australian Private Hospitals Association -- will encourage delegates to openly discuss mental health and well-being with their colleagues.
‘’The elephant in the room is something we can all identify with and it’s so important that anaesthetists and other medical professionals discuss their mental well-being on a regular basis,’’ Dr Effeney said.
‘’Simply asking ‘are you ok?’ will hopefully get the message across that we are not alone in working through these issues with our patients but also our colleagues.’’
Dr Effeney said it was important that a diverse range of speakers and topics were included at the 2017 conference.
It is the first time that ANZCA has provided a crèche for delegates attending the annual scientific meeting.
‘’We’re hoping the provision of an on-site crèche will make it a lot easier for parents, many of whom are practising anaesthetists, to attend this year,’’ Dr Effeney said.
ANZCA President Professor David A Scott said the benefits of openly discussing health and welfare issues in the profession should not be overlooked.
‘‘By looking after the health and welfare of practitioners we will ensure we have healthier patients,’’ he said.

Thursday May 11, 2017 
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