How would you go if just after you finished your intensive care training you moved to a remote part of Australia to set up as a solo intensivist and Director of the Intensive Care Unit?
That’s precisely what this week’s guest did. And by working hard, respecting and valuing everyone in the team and by communicating well, she led the development of a positive and happiness–focused work environment where great things have happened over the last 2 decades.
This week’s episode features Associate Professor Dianne Stephens who moved to Darwin, Australia nearly 20 years ago after training in Melbourne. She has led the development of the Royal Darwin Hospital ICU to be nationally respected for its excellence in training and research. Dianne received an OAM for her leadership role in the intensive care management of the 20 critically ill Bali bombing victims in 2002. She has also managed mass casualty events in Iraq and Denpasar over the years, and amongst many other contributions has been a long-term researcher with the ANZICS Clinical Trials Group. Recently she undertook a sabbatical year in Fiji to freshen up before resuming as an intensivist and taking on the role of Medical Director of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre focusing on disaster and trauma medicine locally, nationally and internationally in the Asia Pacific region.
Dianne is extremely thoughtful, articulate, passionate, collaborative and supportive. In this conversation, Dianne takes us on the journey of her career from when she first began to love intensive care as an intern to recently reflecting that she has never had a day when she hasn’t been excited about going to work – and that intensive care is her spiritual home. Along the way she describes:
- The challenges of trying to change her ICU from an open to a closed model
- The value of respecting and valuing everybody on her team in the pursuit of a positive and happy work environment – and how distressing it can be if people aren’t happy
- The need to remain calm when emotions escalate at the bedside, especially by not allowing things to become personal, by not speaking precisely the conversations we are having in our heads and by not letting the emails we want to send leave the outbox until someone else has read them
- The benefit of noticing changes in colleague’s behaviour to assist them before things get out of control
- The story of the Bali bombings and how she conducted an orchestra of her young and brave colleagues in an eerily silent ICU
- The importance of training in communication – and recognising that honesty and respect can be more important than understanding everything about other cultures
- The benefits of talking about what is important to a patient’s family, not what is important to us
- The realisation that she (and likely many of us too) needed a mid-career mental health break – and how planning for this in advance is paramount
- Her desire to continue to improve at connecting with patients, families and colleagues
Mastering Intensive Care is delighted to have an online home for the podcast at Life In the Fast Lane. Special thanks to Chris Nickson for offering and arranging this. It’s great to be part of the #FOAMed community and hosted on such a comprehensive educational resource for critical care.
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