Emergency physicians who are feeling burned out may not think adding advocacy to their plate is the solution. But they should consider it, says emergency physician Hon. Nathaniel Schlicher, MD, JD, MBA, FACEP, who will deliver this year’s Colin C. Rorrie, Jr. Lecture, “Finding Wellness and Purpose Through Advocacy,” on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 1:30 p.m.
“Wellness is not as simple as yoga and exercise and deep breathing, but it is finding purpose and advocacy and doing work to change the world in which you’re frustrated,” says Dr. Schlicher, a former state senator from Washington state. “It’s something that we can do and we do and we should do as providers and [emergency physicians]. We are some of the best advocates because we see the problems in the world. I’ve always said we sit at the intersection of all failed public policy!”
Dr. Schlicher doesn’t want people to think that the only forms of advocacy are testifying before a government panel or running for office. It can start with just writing down a set of short-term, medium-term, or long-term goals.
Or “it can be as simple as serving on your hospital’s committee,” he says. “Working on improving throughput and flow. Meeting with your leadership to tackle the problem of quality. Working on your nursing staffing ratio if you’re having struggles there. You don’t have to climb to the mountain. You can walk the hill first.”
Dr. Schlicher warns that not everybody needs to be an advocate; some physicians are content with shift work and helping patients. To those physicians, he notes that they’re already doing “critically important” advocacy work.
“Advocacy is what we do every day as [emergency physicians],” he says. “Whether it’s calling when someone needs to be admitted and advocating with your hospitalist for an admission. Whether it’s working with your techs and nurses to get a study done when it’s late at night or off hours.”
But for those who feel themselves burning out, he urges a new level of advocacy as an option to remember what made them passionate about the specialty in the first place.
“We’re all highly competitive people,” Dr. Schlicher says. “There’s always the next thing. You got into undergrad, and then you had to get into medical school. You got into medical school, and you had to get into residency. You got into residency to get the best job. All of a sudden, we’ve reached the job, and now it’s like, ‘What’s next?’… Sometimes we forget that we can engage in something new and advocate for something challenging to find our purpose and wellness once more.”