Emergency medicine (EM) is a young specialty globally. Its origins can be traced back to the 1960s. As we move forward into the future, in 2019, approximately 82 countries worldwide (out of 194 countries) have recognized EM as a separate specialty. Emergency care systems in these countries are at various stages of development.
However, the mere fact that the specialty is recognized in a certain country does not mean that a modern model of EM clinical practice has been widely adopted throughout the said country. Many challenges remain in the face of the more widespread adoption of modern EM.
By far, the most important challenge in the face of any health care system is human resources. Highly trained personnel are a requirement to operate any system regardless of material resource capacity. You can have the most sophisticated machines readily available, but without the staff to utilize these machines, they will just sit in a dark corner, slowly gathering dust.
Potential causes of human resource limitation in emergency medicine
In countries where EM does not have a strong presence, it struggles to recruit medical graduates into its ranks. Students are deterred from the specialty because of misinformation and a fundamental lack of understanding of the unique role EM plays in a larger health care system. This deprives the specialty of a diversity that could have been harnessed to help the specialty achieve its maximum potential.
Thus, it is imperative that students be ‘engaged’ to ensure a correct exposure to EM. At the very least, you will have educated students, whether or not they ultimately decide to pursue EM as a specialty, on the importance of the role of EM. This has the potential added benefit of removing a lot of future interdepartmental resistance and greatly enhancing the motivation to ensure efficient collaboration between EM and other consulting specialties.
The building blocks of student engagement
Student engagement can take multiple forms. For example, the basis for a student’s introduction to any specialty is usually the specialty’s clerkship during a medical education curriculum. This is ideally the foundation of any attempt to expose students to EM. However, many schools do not yet have an emergency medicine clerkship embedded in their curriculum. This is a gap that can be temporarily bridged using tailored FOAMEd products that are contextually relevant.
The Interest Group
The next ‘building block’ is an extracurricular exposure to emergency medicine through a student interest group at their local institution. This allows students to explore emergency medicine in a more relaxed, non-didactic setting. This also presents the opportunity to network with EM faculty and other students that are interested in emergency medicine. It can additionally be an introduction to some soft skills such as leadership, presentation, and interpersonal skills. However, students at schools that do not have academic departments of EM face an inability to use this building block(and the previous block as well).
The ‘Student Council’
The final building block in student engagement would be a student section in the national (or international) emergency medicine organization. The advantages of this block are that it can precede all the other blocks and that its reach is very wide. It can, in a way, be the panacea to limited exposure to EM. A student section(or council) can also serve as the ‘interest group’ for students without access to one. This allows students to greatly enhance their leadership skills on a national scale. It also provides them with a front seat to both witness and contributes to the development effort.
It is vital to prioritize student engagement on the development agenda. This will ensure that the EM community can rely on a steady stream of young energies that can keep on carrying the fire. Hopefully, this will accelerate the adoption of organized emergency care worldwide.
In countries where EM is completely absent, it falls unto other countries where EM has taken the time to mature to harness the spirit of Ubuntu and to empower their fellow humans to take control of their own development. Then and only then can we ensure equitable access to high-quality, safe emergency care for ALL.