About Eric Dickson, MD, MHCM

President and CEO, UMass Memorial Health Care Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Caregiving is a journey…and sometimes feels like an awkward school dance

Two weeks ago, I completed my advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) retraining through the medical school’s fantastic interprofessional Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation (iCELS). The course highligEWD_EI_Blog_52319hts the importance of high-performance team dynamics and communication when caring for patients in cardiopulmonary arrest, post-cardiac arrest, with acute arrhythmias, stroke, and acute coronary syndromes (ACS).

The use of interactive, technology-loaded manikins mimic real patient symptoms, clinical instrumentation allows practice to develop skills and enhance team-based communication, and – of course – exceptionally skilled educators such as Jorge Yarzebeski, who has been training medical students, residents and physicians for 12 years – bring it all to life.

Beyond the advanced technology, however, is something more fundamental: teamwork. Working with a group of caregivers you may not know very well is kind of like going to your first school dance. At first, everyone lines the walls, waiting to see who’ll make the first move. But then something sparks the group to action and the ice is broken – in this case, it’s a sweaty “patient” with a weak pulse and low oxygen saturation who’s in clear need of some urgent help.

Suddenly, what was once an awkward group of caregivers lining the walls turns into a team working together towards the same goal… saving the patient… even if he is made out of plastic.

I see this same behavior at some of the huddles I attend.  People feel a little goofy at first and don’t want to speak up, but then someone breaks the ice and people start engaging in problem solving towards a common cause – making life better for our caregivers and our patients by taking waste out of our processes.  It’s often not as glamorous as defibrillating a patient (or a manikin) back to life, but it can be just as important.

Team dynamics, closed loop communication, and debriefing are now taught as part of ACLS training.  Whether it’s a clinical situation or a huddle in the central business office, the team debriefs: what worked, what didn’t, what could have been improved? These discussions are a critical part of getting better, and I encourage you to do this on a regular basis with your team.

ACLS is an important skill for many of our caregivers, but there are other skills that many of us also need to do our jobs like dealing with aggressive behavior, how to have a voice in meetings, and ways to manage change.  If you need ACLS training, go see Jorge – for other important topics. Visit our new Spark learning platform: there is a lot of great material available to help each of us keep learning and becoming a little bit better every day.

Thanks, as always, for taking great care of our patients and one another,

Eric