The power of the pack, an ode to the trauma meeting throughout the coronavirus pandemic

28 Apr 2020

By Hannah Louise Morley
ST3 in Trauma and Orthopaedics at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Published 28 April 2020

Whether you love the trauma meeting or loathe it, it is arguably the hub of orthopaedic life in the hospital. It has become particularly crucial during the COVID19 pandemic. Whilst the focus of trauma meetings is primarily to peer review and discuss cases. It also forms a fundamental role in teaching. Moreover, it delivers an identity affirming form of group support1 during this testing time.

Of course, it is now the case that many departments are running virtual meetings or part virtual meetings, with staff reviewing cases remotely. Often these adjustments were implemented overnight. It is a testament to technology that we are able to do this. Can you imagine what would have happened in 1999? Furthermore, this new ‘virtual approach’ is proving to be a masterclass in learning to listen and speak in turns, whilst negotiating questionable internet connections. It has certainly added a new dimension to the morning meeting. Out of the haze of muting and unmuting, this novel approach may even be a sustainable option for some Trusts where cross site working is the norm.

Humanity appears to have been engaging in formal group meetings from our inception. From pow wows to forums, humans have been conducting structured meetings for centuries. So, whether your meeting takes place in a lecture theatre or a cramped office with no windows, you are taking part in an age-old process that many of your ancestors did before you. Embrace it.

In life, there appears to be a benefit from feeling like you belong to a group2,3. This is particularly important when under stress2. Homo Sapiens and Primates alike love to form groups where members have similarities. Francis de Waal, a primatologist, introduced the concept of ‘the empathy instinct’ some time ago, simply explained, it means that we are innately more likely to empathise and act with our own ‘tribe’. It is thought that humans share this primal instinct. Whilst this instinct can sometimes lead to societal anarchy it can also be supportive during times of group stress2,3. During lockdown, the trauma meeting could be a welcome haven for doctors; particularly for juniors who are yet to be re-deployed, or are returning from re-deployment. 

The trauma meeting is a bit like an old tree, ever changing but always there. Having a meeting every morning at the same time, 365 days a year is the epitome of structure. So, whilst it is imperative that we support the rest of our medical colleagues during the pandemic, we should also embrace our own sense of identity and belonging whilst the madness rages on. I would encourage all trainees, where safe to do so, to engage with the trauma meeting before starting your day, whatever day that will eventually entail. Including those colleagues whose health means that they are isolating at home but are well enough to join the meeting, adds essential structure to the day, as well as providing some much-needed peer support in this ever-changing time.

References

  1. Greenberg N, Docherty M, Gnanapragasam S, Wessely S. Managing mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers during covid-19 pandemic. BMJ. 2020;368:m1211.
  2. Haslam SA, Reicher S. Stressing the group: social identity and the unfolding dynamics of responses to stress. J Appl Psychol. 2006;91(5):1037-52.
  3. Bazalgette P (2017). The empathy instinct: How to create a more civil society. Hachette UK.
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