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Specialty Spotlight – Emergency Medicine – With Dr Andrew Bezzina (Part 2)

Dr Andrew Bezzina

Dr Andrew Bezzina (MB BS, FACEM) is a senior staff specialist in Emergency Medicine in the Illawarra region of NSW. He is widely respected in the emergency medicine community, and as the Chairman of the not-for-profit organisation Emergency Life Support, contributes to medical education in Australia, and internationally.

In the second part of this article, Dr Bezzina discusses some crucial tips for trainees, and how to impress with a great CV and interview.


What are some lessons learnt as an emergency physician you would pass on to a trainee?

The lessons would largely flow from the last discussion.

At the risk of being trite I would make several statements –

  • There’s more to Emergency Medicine than just the “buzz”.
  • The best diagnostic tool is your own clinical skill. There must be a real pre test probability before any test result can be relied upon.
  • Don’t just do something – stand there! This is a bit of a cliché but it is still an important concept. Emergency clinicians feel an imperative to intervene. It is largely what we are trained to do. However – irrespective of the apparent urgency of a situation – whatever we do should be carefully considered before we do it. Will it really benefit the patient in the long run? Will it make the situation worse rather than better? Are you doing it because of the urge to do something?
  • Finally – as tough as it gets with all the access block and politics it’s still highly rewarding. Focus on that rather than the negatives.

-Tips for training/exams?

  • Don’t underestimate the process. It’s not just about the exams. You’ll get the most out of the training time if you focus on maximising your experience.
  • Don’t attempt exams under prepared – it’s surprising the psychological impact of a failure even if you half expect it.
  • Make sure you seek broad exposure – work in more than one environment especially rural environments. It will set you up well for assessments and it will provide you with the tools for your early consultancy.

-Additional education/training/courses to consider

These days I’d advise if you’re at the start of the process a course to provide you with the right strategic thinking processes to apply in your day to day work e.g. EMST, APLS or more generally and more apposite the ELS course.

Current clinical practice means that the more ultrasound training you can get the better. When you first start it would be best in my view to do a comprehensive introductory course (4 or 5 day course) rather than a one or two day “quick and dirty”.


What are the must-have inclusions for an emergency medicine CV?

If you’re looking at Emergency Medicine you must have anything relevant to critical care skills front and centre especially completed short courses.

People looking at your CV will be interested in whether you have the skill base e.g. airway skills, vascular access skills but probably more importantly the temperament to work in the ED and to work well in a team setting. When you write any introductory document focus heavily on those and any supporting evidence e.g. references which highlight this.

Highlight important experience especially circumstances where you have had to stand alone e.g. rural or remote experience.


What tips would you provide for people facing an interview?

This is a sales pitch. Maximise your chances by being conservative in your dress etc but engaging in your communication. In interviews the interviewers are interested in –

  1. Can you do the job? – Sell your previous experience in similar positions if you have it. If not then sell your personal attributes that make you suitable for the job.
  2. Do you know the place you are applying for – find out from whatever means the nature of the department (patient spectrum), the community it’s part of, the system it’s part of etc. This helps show you are really interested in this job and not just “trawling” (even if you are).
  3. Can you communicate? – Communication is a key to Emergency Medicine practice and as such the interview will allow you to demonstrate your communication skills. Focus on the question asked and think for a few seconds before answering. Consider what the interviewers are trying to ascertain by the question they’ve asked. (It’s not unlike answering a viva question).
  4. Are your references from relevant clinicians? – Have referees who are Emergency Physicians and make sure you’ve teed them up beforehand AND that they will be available.

There will usually be a scenario based question – not necessarily clinical but it often is. The idea is to partly get a demonstration of your clinical knowledge but more importantly to get an idea of how you think on the spot. Try and predict what some types of scenarios might be and practice structured methodical responses to “cold” questions from colleagues.

Don’t forget your needs in the job. If you have accommodation needs, on call requirements etc then have your questions in regards to options answered there at the interview.


What advice do you give for new consultants looking for a job?

There is a tendency for new FACEMs to focus on a narrow spectrum of jobs. Early Fellowship is a time to continue to broaden your experience and to “taste” some different experience. Don’t tie yourself into a job line purely from a security perspective. The opportunities are still excellent.

Consider –

  • What is your long term plan – life style focus? Academic career? Administrative focus? Education?… Use that as a criterion to narrow the field of where you would apply.
  • What gaps in your experience need filling?
  • Look beyond the short range. Consider interstate, rural or overseas jobs.

Once you’ve determined where you would like to work then get to know as much as you can about that job so that in your application and if you get to interview you can tailor your content to impress the selection committee.


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