Story by Dr Joanna Sinclair
The 2022 Combined Special Interest Group meeting was held in Cairns from 9-11 September and was hosted by the Wellbeing SIG. The theme was “Show up, be seen; Courageous conversations in Cairns”. The convenors - Dr Joanna Sinclair and Dr Kushlani Stevenson - were hoping for
robust conversations about the issues facing our workforce today, with an emphasis on moving from awareness to action.
Around 150 delegates and speakers enjoyed the chance to meet face to face at the beautiful Riley Crystalbrook for two and a half days of workshops, presentations and stimulating conversation. Much of the program was the legacy of a Combined SIG meeting that was unable to go ahead as a face to face meeting in 2021. Thanks to Dr Suyin Tan and Professor Kirsty Forrest for the groundwork laid for us in 2022.
Friday morning was taken up with workshops and there were five on offer with Mental Health First Aid, Getting Started with Coaching Skills, Acute Severe Behavioural Disturbance, Developing an Anaesthetic Peer Support Program, and Hypnotic Communication Skills for Anaesthetists.
The plenary sessions began with an inspiring Welcome to Country from Minjil. Following this our opening plenary featured Australia’s first Chief Medical Wellness Officer, Dr Bethan Richards; Fiona Fitzgerald from the Health Roundtable; and the inimitable Associate Professor Jane Munro from the Royal Children’s Hospital. This session looked at research into burnout as well as approaches to interventions to improve wellbeing. Dr Richards had run a preconference wellbeing survey for our delegates. She was able to use our own data to demonstrate the power of data to aid in finding the interventions that are most likely to make a difference for your team with respect to reducing burnout and improving professional fulfilment.
The second session of the day was on “Failing to Succeed” and had been carried over from 2021, with talks from Dr Chris Wilde (Succeeding to Fail) and Associate Professor Rhea Liang (Planning for Imperfection). This was followed by welcome drinks at Paper Crane, a chance to reconnect in person with friends and colleagues from Australia and New Zealand not seen for at least two years.
The second day started with a lively panel session from the Leadership and Management SIG on ‘Courageous conversations in leadership’. Dr Mark Priestley chaired a panel of very experienced healthcare leaders and asked each to share a difficult conversation they had been involved in and what they had learnt from the experience. This was followed by a Professional Practice Research Network session chaired by Professor Kirsty Forrest.
After lunch, Dr Kara Allen hosted the Medical Education SIG plenary – “Should gender be considered in our education practices?”. Dr Nav Sidhu and Dr Greta Pearce, from Auckland, presented their research into the gender effects in anaesthesia training in Australia and New Zealand, followed by a thought-provoking talk from Associate Professor Rhea Liang on gender bias. Dr Claire Stewart rounded out the session with a presentation of the results of the ANZCA gender equity survey done this year.
The final session for the day was a second Wellbeing SIG plenary focused on tools we can have in our toolbox when facing personal and professional challenges. Dr Tom Fernandez very generously shared some personal experiences to add context to the discussion. Dr Kym Jenkins and Dr Tahnee Bridson from Hand-n-Hand shared the benefits of peer support and Dr Jenkins also helped us understand the roles of psychiatrists and psychologists in supporting doctors in distress. Dr Sancha Robinson shared her wisdom and experience as a coach for doctors.
We moved across to rooftop of the Bailey Crystalbrook in the evening for cocktails and Mexican-style food at Pacha Mama.
On the final day, we started with a Communication SIG plenary addressing topics on consent (Dr Allan Cyna) and the nocebo effects of language (Dr Andrew Watson) and then Dr Suyin Tan launched the Communicator role in practice project. The final Wellbeing SIG session followed with Dr Suzi Nou taking up the challenge of running a “live podcast” interview with Dr Bethan Richards, and Associate Professor Jane Munro. They shared some great insights into their work as wellbeing leaders and advocates in healthcare, how they maintain their own wellbeing and what they have learned.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to Sarah Chezan and the rest of the ANZCA Events Team for pulling together a fabulous meeting that was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for so many. We hope this meeting represents the beginning of a return to regular face to face meetings, so that we can make those in person, collegial connections that sustain us in our careers, particularly in challenging times.