Reflecting on 40 years of emergency medicine at Hospital Week

Dr Robert Edwards is a staff specialist in emergency medicine and trauma at Westmead Hospital.

After 24 years working on the frontline of emergency medicine at Westmead Hospital, Dr Robert Edwards knows how to handle the pressures and demands of the ED.

He today reflected on 40 years of emergency medicine in Westmead during Hospital Week (August 29-31), which is currently showing more than 100 insightful presentations.

“It’s very gratifying to work in that environment, I find it a privilege to be able to look after people who are maybe having the worst day of their lives,” he said.

Dr Edwards is a staff specialist in emergency medicine and trauma at Westmead Hospital, where he has worked since 1994.

Back then emergency medicine was not the recognised discipline that it is today.

“When I started here emergency medicine was a new specialty,” Dr Edwards told The Pulse.

“Emergency medicine has been accepted as a principal specialty and we have a role to play in the health system,” he said.

“Over the years we’ve built up our training program to make it more attractive for junior doctors to want to do emergency medicine.

“Now we have one of the biggest training programs in Australia in terms of the numbers of registrars and the desirability of Westmead as a place to want to come here and train.”

Westmead’s ED is an entry portal into the hospital where the most critically ill patients are managed by a world-class team of doctors, nurses, specialists and support staff.

“We’ve developed a large expertise in emergency medicine,” Dr Edwards said.

“I look around today and we have around 25 specialists or more – most of them have trained here and we’ve seen them grow from junior medical officers – there’s a lot of enthusiasm there and there’s a lot of passion.”

Westmead Emergency is one of the busiest EDs in New South Wales.

“We’re a trauma centre and a tertiary hospital so we get a lot of trauma that gets diverted here as opposed to other hospitals,” he said.

Dr Edwards said around 76,000 adult patients were admitted to the ED every year – that is more than 200 a day.

A quarter of a century ago, the ED was receiving around 36,000 patients a year.

Staff must deal with complicated, clinical challenges and make decisive, life-saving diagnoses.

“I like the variability of what we do and we are always dealing with the acute end of the spectrum – so patients who are seriously ill, and it’s rewarding to diagnose that and treat that,” he said.