Crucial Conversations in Medicine – #medcrucialconvos

Crucial Conversations in Medicine – #medcrucialconvos

Dr Helen Schultz, consultant psychiatrist, author, public speaker and doctor’s mental health advocate has been a tireless advocate for doctor’s mental health and well being since 2003.

She has been advocating in this space since 2003 when she was the  AMA(Vic) President, Doctor-in-Training Subdivision. At the time, the Victorian medical profession was rocked by the news of a cluster of suicides among the training doctor population. Responses by others are still familiar today, and speak to the heart of victim blaming, as if there was some personal reason why a doctor should choose such a tragic and irreversible outcome.

Maybe they weren’t cut out for medicine

Maybe they just weren’t ready to face the pressure

Maybe they shouldn’t have sat the exams

Maybe they chose the wrong career

What are the current factors impacting on doctor’s health and wellness?

In 2017, 14 years later, the same comments are made when news of a suicide makes it through the grapevine. The notion that somehow a suicide arises from a doctor’s own inherent weakness or vulnerability. Few real conversations have focused on the external factors that push doctors to the edge. Seldom do discussions focus on how doctors reach out for help, are spoken to in the workplace, or suffer when they speak out against intolerable conditions or heartbreaking situations. Many assumptions are made, and victims are often blamed for not being ‘resilient enough’.

Some shifts doctors endure contain enough graphic content that if it were movie content it would attract a R 18+ rating. Doctors are inherently resilient because they turn up again the next day for more. So the conversation we need to have isn’t about resilience or self care. It’s about true advocates standing up for others so we can have safe, compassionate workplaces and rewarding careers, and communicate respectively and effectively towards each other.

So, after spending so much time in this space, participating in many committees and panels, speaking at conferences and treating many doctors and medical students, Dr Schultz is rolling out a new series of unique workshops that address critical factors that may lead to a tragedy such as suicide.

Communication is the key when delivering feedback or asking for help. But where in medicine do we learn how to have crucial conversations?

Hence the creation of a workshop that relies heavily on role plays and clinical scenarios, and an approach that will inform attendees about how to have crucial conversations in the workplace. This is the opportunity to to experiment with conversations that may be life saving, worthwhile or the catalyst for a doctor to take their own life. The content is current and relevant, the timing is right with so many competing issues at play, and the approach is unique in that it will leave the participants aware and ready to have better conversations with better outcomes.

What is the #medcrucialconvos workshop?

The #medcrucialconvos workshop was designed and delivered by Dr Helen Schultz and Mr Glen Hancox, professional actor, coach, facilitator and director of ACTReal. It was created at the request of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and delivered in April 2017, at their Regional Scientific Meeting in Albury, NSW. It delivered an opportunity for attendees to practice how they would handle conversations regarding doctor’s help seeking, delivering feedback, being an approachable mentor and bullying. The conversations were raw and controversial, but voted by the audience as extremely relevant to their clinical practice and encounters with others.

Some of the scenarios included:

  • That corridor conversation. After a multidisciplinary team meeting,  Dr Anne Salter, a psychiatry registrar working in consultation-liaison psychiatry (wanting to be a perinatal psychiatrist) is approached by Dr Alex Scott, an O&G registrar. Alex is being paged but wants to have a ‘few minutes’ with Anne to ask her opinion about something….
  • Doctors treating doctors. Dr Alex Scott consults with Dr Simone Davige, a GP in a busy family medical centre. Alex is nervous but after talking to his wife, and trusting in Anne, he decides to open up and be honest about how he is struggling…..
  • The supervisor asking “So,  how’s it going?”. Dr Ian Anderson is a senior consultant in the gynaecology department. He is well meaning, but quite detached from the issues facing junior doctors. His idea of mentoring a junior doctor is to share his own experiences that he thinks are valuable to hear about rather than listening….
  • The consultant delivering negative feedback. Dr Peter Richard is a consultant and supervisor. He has had feedback from the college and other peers that his registrar Dr Sophie Donal is ‘not up to scratch’ He hates conflict but knows he has to tell her some hard truths….

The full day workshop was successful, interactive, and led to tangible outcomes that have been adopted by the college since April.

100% of attendees agreed that they would recommend the workshop to their colleagues.

What does the #medcrucialconvos workshop offer you?

If you are a senior clinician, hospital administrator, college fellow, medical educator or conference organiser, this one day workshop will provide your attendees with real time, current training and education about how to have a crucial conversation without it leading to an adverse outcome.

The workshop can be tailored to run as a full day workshop, perfect for a pre-congress workshop, or across 2 half days to accommodate clinician’s working rosters and commitments.

Each scenario will be relevant to the audience, taking into account the clinical specialty and level of training/fellowship of your attendees.

A full day workshop covers:

Why have crucial conversations

The role of verbal and non verbal communication

The importance of ‘non violent communication’ in the workplace

The consequences of not having conversations, or not speaking up when witnessing adverse coonversations

Who and how to ask for help if struggling

How to manage doctors as patients

Critical incident debriefing

Being a good mentor

Delivering feedback

What can be seen as bullying.

The workshop is facilitated by Dr Helen Schultz and Mr Glen Hancox using experiential learning experiences and an opportunity for debrief and discussion.

Interested to know more?

View some of the footage from the RANZCOG meeting in April here as well as see what our audience had to say.

If you would like to deliver this workshop, or have further questions, please send an enquiry  to begin the conversation.