The ED is a place that is often high pressure, busy and stressful. Our patients and their families are stressed and sick and anxious. We must advocate for these patients, including those both in the department and in the waiting room.
We also often have to interact with other staff members who are stressed too – the stressed junior med reg, the over tired orthopaedic reg, the half asleep neurosurg reg on the phone.
Maintaining professionalism at all times is essential. What is professionalism? A good summary can be found in the MJA article from 2002 (177) Professionalism in the new millennium: A physician charter. http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/177_05_020902/bre10417_fm.html
This is the preamble from the article:
Professionalism is the basis of medicine's contract with society. It demands placing the interests of patients above those of the physician, setting and maintaining standards of competence and integrity, and providing expert advice to society on matters of health. The principles and responsibilities of medical professionalism must be clearly understood by both the profession and society. Essential to this contract is public trust in physicians, which depends on the integrity of both individual physicians and the whole profession.
Professionalism in the ED
This means respecting and communicating well with all of your patients, no matter how difficult.
It means being compassionate, caring and sympathetic.
It means respecting your colleagues.
It means managing multiple demands on finite resources.
It means managing conflict in an objective and non-personal way.
It means taking responsibility for your duties as a doctor and doing a good job.
It means only calling in sick at an appropriate threshold.
It means taking on a reasonable work load during your shift.
It means dressing appropriately.
It means listening to direction and being an effective member of the ED team.
Most complaints can be avoided by maintaining high standards of professionalism. Spending a short time managing a situation well at the time can save you weeks of responding to a complaint through the director and patient liaison officer.
Notify a consultant if you need help managing a difficult situation or if you think a complaint might be likely.
If a patient wants to make a complaint then they should be encouraged to contact the Patient Liaison Officer or Director during business hours.