Clinical Communiqué Volume 5 Issue 3 September 2018
Download PDF: Clinical Communiqué September 2018 Edition
In this edition
Case #1 OUT OF THE BLUE
Case #2 TO WHAT EXTENT?
Case #3 HARD TO BELIEVE
Expert Commentary #1 THE MENTAL HEALTH OF HEALTH PROFESSIONALS: SUICIDE AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Expert Commentary #2 SUICIDE PREVENTION IN HEALTHCARE WORKERS
Expert Commentary #3 CARING FOR THE CARERS: WHY STATUS QUO IS NOT ALRIGHT
The Clinical Communiqué exists to highlight the challenges that occur when looking after patients, so that clinicians may learn from the experiences of others, and to motivate readers to work together to improve patient safety. From the beginning, the Clinical Communiqué has tackled the difficult topics and challenging themes in health care with a professional, objective and dispassionate approach.
We have shared stories and reflected on the tragedy of patients’ lives lost through sequences of events that would later be closely examined and held up as a lesson to change practice for the better. Often, there were defining points, actions or moments in time, where the precise nature of the adverse outcome was foreseeable with the benefit of hindsight.
This edition is unapologetically different. Looking after our patients and improving the ways in which we keep them safe is only one side of the story. The other side is looking after ourselves. As healthcare professionals, our behaviour is not infallible and our health is not immune to the physical and mental illnesses that afflict those we treat. At times, we are all patients as well.
Whether we are providing or in need of care, our health, and the health of our patients depends upon the prioritisation of our own well-being. That is why we felt it was important to step aside from our usual format for this edition and turn the lens back on ourselves. To focus the attention on suicide in healthcare professionals. It remains a disquieting entity that provokes mixed emotions and a sense of helplessness amongst peers. How do we talk about it? What are the lessons for us? Where are the identifiable defining moments that may have prevented the outcome? How do we manage if no matter how many times we reflect on the words and actions of our family, friend, or colleague we still cannot identify what we could have done differently?
I, like many others in our profession, have had experiences that make this subject all too personal. In the course of my career, I have seen two colleagues take their own lives as a result of mental health issues. For both, just as their families may have expressed following their loss, I did not see it coming. I treated one, only a few weeks before his death, following a fall from his bicycle. We bantered about him being a patient, the best way to manage gravel rash, and I discharged him from my care, making a mental note that I should ask him about his healing wounds the next time we crossed paths in the workplace. Except I never saw him alive again. I never saw a hint of his despair.
That was a long time ago, but my recollection of how we all dealt with the news is crystal clear. There was relative silence. It was as if we could not speak of it in the workplace. Hushed words in a corridor, then a funeral, then nothing. There was no communication from our managers, no changes or initiatives, no encouragement to speak out or consider counselling.
I am heartened to see that presently, a lot more is being said on the topic. There is still a long way to go, but there are a few brave and dedicated people who are making it happen, and the good work that they do is helping to progress the conversation around suicide of healthcare professionals. In this edition, we give our sincere thanks to the experts that have generously offered their time and knowledge. We especially thank the families who lost loved ones, who have put the well-being of our profession ahead of their own grief to allow us to bring these issues to light.
Thank you for reading. Now please start talking.
Support Services Available:
Victorian Doctor’s Health Program
P: 9280 8712
Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria
P: 9415 7551
Pharmacists’ Support Service (national program)
P: 1300 244 910