Over the past few months, Alberta has seen some incredible change that no one would have predicted. Not only has the economy been affected by the pandemic, it has also been hammered by the impact of low oil prices and decreased demand for oil. This has had a devastating effect on the people of Alberta and I know this is not news to any of you.
I recently participated in a meeting with the registrars for Law, Engineering, Accounting, Dental, Veterinary medicine, Architecture and Medicine. In that meeting, it became very apparent every profession in Alberta has been hit incredibly hard. Huge job losses or significant changes in how these professionals are employed have occurred over a very short period of time. Through that whole meeting, I kept asking myself how will the medical profession adapt to the new normal and I actually felt that the medical profession would do very well in the long run. I realize that may seem odd, especially with the turmoil that currently exists in the medical profession, but at the end of the day, the medical profession has some unique opportunities.
I’m not downplaying the stress that Alberta doctors are under right now. Society is not only asking doctors to put their health at risk by caring for patients with COVID-19, but physicians are also looking after Albertans that are suffering as a result of the economy and the pandemic. Every day doctors are hearing the terrible stories of how Albertans are suffering with little or no income while trying to manage their complex illnesses. In addition, doctors have also seen a dramatic change in how they practise. Then you add the uncertainly of how this will unfold. All of this leads to an incredible amount of stress for physicians.
The reality is we are living through one of the most defining periods for our profession, and we won’t be going back to the way things were. Virtual care is a reality that is not going away and patients will be demanding more of it. Artificial Intelligence is not far behind. The economic stress is not going away any time soon. We will have a new normal, whether we like it or not.
A friend of mine shared with me a speech that Honorable David Johnston, our then Governor General, gave at the 2012 Convocation Ceremony of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, in Ottawa on Oct. 19, 2012. In that address our Governor General said:
“One of the best ways for you and for men and women in any profession to avoid having change forced upon you is to relentlessly embrace new ideas, tenaciously set and reach higher standards and, most importantly, passionately strive to ensure your profession serves the public good.”
I’ve had the great privilege of meeting the Honorable David Johnston on several occasions, and I can assure you he is one of the most intelligent, caring and visionary leaders I’ve ever met. His words are very true. We must “relentlessly embrace new ideas, tenaciously set and reach higher standards and, most importantly, passionately strive to ensure your profession serves the public good” if we are to survive in the new normal. I encourage everyone to read his complete address to the Royal College.
So, you may be then wondering what is it that we have as a profession that other professions may not have and why I kept thinking the medical profession would do well in the long run. Well, it’s for the following three reasons:
First, as doctors we have been taught to be innovative and creative in our work. We are problem solvers at heart and have been taught to look for every possible cause and solution to problems. Even though most of us want some degree of control, we also know there is a great deal of what happens around us that we don’t control. We can find the solutions if we are not resistant to the reality that our new normal is inevitable.
Second, we are not alone in this. When KODAK was struggling to stay afloat, it’s not like other industries were going to help them out. They were on their own to sink or swim. We have an entire profession to help find our way forward. We need to do this together.
Last, but certainly not least, we know Albertans need us to transform to meet this new reality. We know that our reason for existence is to look after people, and society will need some significant changes to our health system.
These days may seem dark and the future may be cloudy, but we are very fortunate to be in a profession that can and will evolve to meet this new reality. Look for the good, look for the opportunity and be open to what could be, not what was.
Your comments are appreciated,