Why do you do what you do?

This blog actually appeared in its first form on the The-Network Blog site (well worth joining this free initiative if you are interested in quality improvement and health system leadership and management – there are 2000+ other members!). Its posting here was prompted by the following tweet

So writing back in July 2012…..

At the end of last week I attended the International Conference on Emergency Medicine (#icem2012) in Dublin. Like many conferences the benefits of attending (meeting friends and networking) outweighed the costs (exorbitant registration and travel) but resulted in very little practical knowledge gain.

One lecture particularly stuck in my mind and has re-shaped my enthusiasm for medicine. The speaker, from America, was introduced as a giant in the field of Emergency Medicine and an expert in paediatric emergency care. He was speaking on the topic of “Neonatal Emergencies”. About half way he started talking about a 5 day old presenting to the Emergency Department with Jaundice. His slide set finished with the comment – “stopping breast feeding can be used to confirm the diagnosis of Breast Milk Jaundice”. I have rarely been so angry in my entire life. This is not far off saying “to confirm that people get dehydrated don’t let them drink”. Breast milk jaundice is a physiological process which does not need confirming (other causes of jaundice need excluding if you are unable to do this clinically).

In the middle of the lecture I started waving my hand frantically in the air and stopped when I realised people were looking at me strangely (although this is not the first and last time that will happen). I was the first to put my hand up for questions at the end of the talk and politely asked if I had misheard the speaker in their assertion that stopping a normal process to confirm a diagnosis of no practical relevance was a useful medical intervention. The reply included a denial of being in the pay of a formula manufacturer (something I hadn’t been concerned about but now was) and the fact practices varied so discussion with the family should always take place. I remain perplexed that even in America this could be deemed a suitable practice and was relatively reassured by the number of delegates who came up to my afterwards to agree with my concern. I was also equally horrified that a number of non-paediatric emergency physicians were dutifully scribbling down every word.

Recently I have taken on a little too much and my enthusiasm for the clinical side of my work has waned. I have been reflecting on what matters most to me and which direction I should be taking. Clinical credibility has now firmly been planted back into my life plans and I never wish to become so distant from actual clinical practice that I lose sight of fundamental principles.

I am sure I said at some point in my Medical School interview I came into medicine to help people but this also includes helping my colleagues understand bad practice. On reflection this is what I do with my research, representative and leadership roles and is actually what really drives me forward.

Why do you do what you do?

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