Join the Fight: Don’t Blame the Emergency Department For Everything


PhotobucketEditor’s Note: Nathaniel Schlicher, MD, JD, is the Associate Director of the Patient Safety Organization, TeamHealth and the Legislative Chairman, Washington Chapter of ACEP.

Did you hear?  “The ER physicians and hospitals have been abusing their privileges as providers of ER services for years,” according to the Chief Medical Officer for the Washington State Medicaid Program. 

These are the statements that make involvement in organized medicine and participation in leadership at all levels critical.  But where do we acquire the skills to combat these misperceptions and outlandish statements?

In May every year, there is a one of a kind event in Washington, DC called the ACEP Leadership and Advocacy Conference.  It is an intimate conference with about 500 attendees, representing leaders in emergency medicine from across the country. 

The conference focuses on principles of leadership, current issues in advocacy, media training, and practical everyday leadership challenges that will confront leaders in every state.  It is also an excellent opportunity to network with colleagues from across the country.

When I first attended 5 years ago, I went as a member of the EMRA Chair’s Challenge and the incoming Legislative Advisor for EMRA – a neophyte to organized medicine by all accounts.  It was an eye-opening experience to be talking with the leaders of our specialty.  These were the people and faces that went with the legendary names I read about in Annals and ACEP News.  Now I was talking with them, learning from their experiences and stories, and finding out how varied the opportunities were in emergency medicine. 

From chairs of departments, leaders of advocacy groups such as the AARP, AMA delegates, speakers of the council, and so many others, I had the chance to see and live the history of our specialty.  Then on the final day of the conference, we put it all together and walked up to Capitol Hill as hundreds of physicians representing our millions of patients to share our stories with elected officials and change the face of medicine.

This year it is my privilege to share with you my experience in Washington State, having put these skills into action on the local level.  When I joined the Washington ACEP Board of Directors, I never imagined I would use so much of what I learned at LAC.  From media training skills in doing press interviews and the gotcha journalism warnings, to relationships I have leaned on for statistical assistance in fighting misleading information, and the practice of speaking with legislators – these are all invaluable skills. 

If you have the slightest of desire to join the leadership of emergency medicine in your hospital as a facility medical director, at the state level in an ACEP Chapter, nationally on a committee, or be involved in one of the hundreds of other ways possible, I encourage you to attend ACEP’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference in May.  It is the conference that I walk away from every year re-invigorated and ready to take on the challenges of caring for our patients in the halls of our department, but also and more challenging often, the halls of the Legislature.  You will not regret coming to DC, but you might just regret missing it!

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