Articles and Case Studies

Life is an Adventure - Living Out of the Ordinary | MDA National Student eNews

04 Nov 2014

For someone who didn’t want to become a doctor, MDA National Member, Dr Eric Richman has certainly made his mark. His passion for acute medicine combined with his love of learning have brought him many successes, including the Queensland Junior Doctor of the Year Award in 2012 and Queensland’s nomination for Australian Junior Doctor of the Year.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?

I certainly never wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be a paramedic – front lines, action, adventure… that sort of thing. When I was five, I witnessed a car crash. I recall the paramedics pulling a person out of the car. I thought he was dead, but they took care of him and he woke up. My childish perception was, “Wow, I want to do that”. It was my dream to become a paramedic ever since.

How did you end up choosing a medical career?

I became a paramedic in the United States. But life there wasn’t quite what we wanted for our children. I had previously lived in Australia during which I completed my Biomedical Science degree. So in 2004, we moved back to what is now home. I then had to make a difficult decision: continue as a paramedic with the Queensland Ambulance Service or “bite the bullet” and go to medical school. There were times during medical school when I wasn’t sure I had made the right choice, but now I’m very glad I did.

What’s a typical day in your life as a doctor?

My main job is that of an emergency medicine advanced trainee registrar. I spent 2013 working in Anaesthetics – a great opportunity. This year I spent the first half in a peripheral mixed ED and I’m now based in a tertiary paediatrics ED. As with all EDs I work shifts, so each shift might be a day, an afternoon or a night. Sign on to the patient, introduce myself, work my way through and then pick up the next one. The variety is interesting and keeps me going. The next patient might be a simple viral gastroenteritis, an upper respiratory tract infection, a complex trauma or metabolic syndrome – you just never know.

What do you do to relax or unwind?

Body paint I really enjoy what I do most of the time, so it isn’t always work – it’s more life that I get paid to live, if that makes sense! I spend time at the gym. I enjoy challenging myself physically and intellectually. Then there’s my work as a body painting model. Artists use all kinds of techniques and mediums to express themselves, and one of those is the human body. When you’re covered in paint, you don’t have to be yourself anymore. You’re something else – a work of art you get to bring to life. Body painting is a liberating experience completely outside my day to day work.

What are some highlights from your training or career?

The main highlights are related to the people I’ve met. Doctors (senior and junior), nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, radiographers, ward staff and patients. They’ve all taught me something, sometimes without even realising it. Every now and then, as well, you get to actually save a life. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does… yeah, I like that too!

Education has always been a highlight. The prevocational space is such an interesting area in Australia. I’ve found my place being part of a diverse and dynamic group of people dedicated to finding the right balance of training and service delivery. Locally, I’ve served as Chair of the General Clinical Education Committee and the Fatigue Committee at my previous hospital; and I’ve been involved with the Advanced Life Support Program from time to time. At the state level, I was Chair of the Junior Medical Officer Forum Queensland for two years and was involved for four years. I’ve been closely involved with accreditation of intern positions with the Post Graduate Medical Education Council of Queensland (PMCQ), and last year was elected as a company director.  I have since gone on to be Deputy Chair of PMCQ.

Do you have any words of advice for medical students preparing for their internship?

Firstly, keep it up! Medical school is a long road and you may have some doubts, but it’s worth it in the end – it really is. Work hard but don’t kill yourself in the process. If you don’t know what kind of doctor you want to be – good, enjoy finding it out. But if you do know – great. Introduce yourself to the people who will be selecting you as a trainee in a couple of years. Find out about the process. Speak to registrars who’ve just got on the program. Information is your ally.

Finally, it has been said before but I’ll say it again. Everybody knows everybody and healthcare is a very small world. You don’t have to grovel, but be respectful to everyone.

How would you describe your experience with MDA National?

I had every doctor’s nightmare happen to me – a patient I sent home came back very sick because I missed something. I knew very little about what was happening. Late at night, nervous, anxious and feeling just plain rotten, I called MDA National – that’s when I realised the benefit of having my own cover. Here was someone on my team – not anyone else’s, mine. I got simple, straightforward advice on what to do and what the process was. In the end, it was all okay. But at the start, I’ll always be thankful for that person at the other end of the line. I was able to sleep that night which was well worth the cost of the cover, even if I didn’t end up getting into “trouble”.

What’s next for you?

Gearing up for fellowship exams, there’s so much to learn. My joy is finding the next thing I don’t know, and there seems to be a never ending supply of them. Life, both in and out of the hospital, can be such an adventure… why settle for boring?

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