SMACC Day 1 Afternoon Sessions: St Emlyn’s

We didn’t get lost at lunchtime and managed to make it back into the auditorium for the afternoon session. The morning was absolutely incredible (you can see Simon’s post here) and a great introduction to the last SMACC so expectations were high for an equally impressive afternoon. Let’s go through the main messages from the rest of day 1.

People and Planet: Words for our World

If you’ve not heard the story of Luke Batty before, have a look at the website of the Luke Batty Foundation and listen to the story of Rosie, his mother. It was a privilege to listen to Rosie speak on her experiences and how her life has been since her son was murdered by his father.

1 in 3 women will have experienced physical violence at some point and may well be experiencing it right now. 1 in 4 children will be affected by violence in their home. What can you do? How can you approach this? If you see someone in the ED and you have concerns, make sure you give them the opportunity to talk to you in a safe, discreet, confidential environment. Let them know you are there to help them. Let them know they are safe.

Kari Sampsel spoke on sexual abuse. A truly captivating talk on a subject that is all too uncomfortable for most clinicians.

Kari broke it down to the 3 Rs for patients in critical care. Recognition, recording and referral, and gave some crucial advice when it comes to investigating sexual assault and communicating with the victim. This incredible graphic from Aoife Abbey takes you through all the key points from her talk.

35 years of looking after children, squeezed into 15 minutes. Mary-Jo McVeigh gave us advice from her decades of experience caring for children and young people who have been victims of assault and abuse.

Children might not necessarily come to you as a result of first stage trauma, it might be as a result of something else such as cancer. Mary-Jo’s 4 TIPS for things we can do to benefit the patient are:

T – Trauma is real in the lives of survivors – it’s not made-up, or part of any psychosis. Believe in them.
I – Invigorate trust in survivors again – trauma creates disbelief in themselves and HCPs.
P – Person. There is a person in the patient you are seeing. Maintain their dignity when they are the most broken they will be in her life.
S – Sacred is the work that we do, we bring compassion and healing and empathy for people, and we need to maintain that.

The overriding theme for this session was that it’s not just the injuries that you can see, but the injuries that you can’t see that affect families and children greatly. It’s so important to keep other forms of violence – emotional, financial, sexual, at the back of your mind, and listen to your spidey-sense when it tingles. Listen to the nurses, as they will often pick up on cues that you have missed, and don’t forget that paramedics may have seen patients in their home environment, so it’s crucial to take note of any concerns they have.

It can also be difficult for victims of abuse to confide in you, as by doing so they may feel like they have to do something about it. However, it will never stop until there is an intervention. Victim blaming is not the answer. Victim support is.

Looking Inward, Moving Forward

The looking inward, moving forward team have 5 sessions over the course of SMACC where a member of the team will come on stage and reflect on some of the topics that have come before, looking specifically at emotional response.

The SIM team have come up with a great way to dance that emotion off and get back into the game.

But we need to be able to recognise when others have a powerful emotional response to an event. As healthcare professionals we so often try to just move on straight away and get back to work, but that isn’t healthy, and as Liz Crowe would say – it’s so important not to forget self-care.

When this happens, frame the conversation with the following:

Red flags – recognise the emotional response
Explore – the subject needs to recognise this emotional response too
Name – bring it out of the emotional domain and into the cognitive domain
Normalise – emotions are experienced by everyone, and aren’t to be ashamed of
Empathise – reassure with empathy, not with facts
Support – give them tools to get back to their baseline

We look forward to seeing how the SIM sessions progress over the conference.

Science and Innovation: Sowing the Seeds of Creativity

This last session of the day focused on creativity. But what is it? Phil Dobson told us that the definition is the use of imagination to create something novel and useful. Usually this is in response to a problem, however the more you try to solve the problem the more you inhibit the answer. Change your brain from a frenzied state to a more relaxed and disconnected state, as this will help it to become more creative.

A great panel talk on creativity chaired by Michelle Johnston discussed a broad range of subjects around the topic, even including whether micro-dosing drugs can improve your creativity. Obviously not something we’d recommend here at St Emlyn’s but there is some evidence behind it with selected drugs such as mescaline.

On inspiring creativity in our children, Carol Hodgson says we need to make sure that children have a space to be creative, and the encouragement to explore and do things that can foster their creativity. Phil took this and turned it round too, pointing out that children too can remind us to be creative.

Final Thoughts

Wow. What a huge start to SMACC here in Sydney. Day 1 was a huge rollercoaster of emotions and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling slightly mentally exhausted at the end of it.

I hope you all had a great night practising some self-care and are ready for day 2.



Cite this article as: Chris Gray, "SMACC Day 1 Afternoon Sessions: St Emlyn’s," in St.Emlyn's, March 27, 2019,

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