What is WEMski? Why is it needed? How can it help?

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Keeping our medics healthy is key to societal health, and with ever growing pressure on medical professionals and the systems in which they work, it’s more important than ever to have platforms to support the people that work so hard to care for communities at home and around the world.

Decompression breaks are common for people working in high-stress and high-risk environments but are rare among medical and allied healthcare professionals. While working in extremes, be that in war zones, expeditions, remotely with little support, as an isolated or overwhelmed GP, in a busy stressed Emergency Department or on a paramedic crew, medics are subject to significant and compounding stresses. We believe more needs to be done to mitigate the effects of this.

WEMski is an event concentrating on mental health and resilience for medical and allied healthcare professionals, which will also cover aspects of physical resilience and leadership. Participants will come away with a new network of friends and colleagues, but most importantly the tools they need to thrive in their challenging work settings both at home and across the world.

Here WEM founder Mark Hannaford and WEM mentor/partner David Weil tells us what prompted them to mount such an ambitious project…

Why WEMski? What are the drivers for mounting such an extraordinary meeting?
The WEMski Conference is distinctly different and leading-edge, a unique opportunity to learn from world-inspiring minds championing the forefront in medical and non-medical protocol and innovation all in one place.

With our history and heritage firmly steeped in expeditions, special forces medicine and working in some of the planets most remote, and dangerous locations we know the pressures clinicians, nurses and paramedics have to work under.

Working in partnership with clinical physiologist Dr Nathan Smith and extreme environment safety specialist Aldo Kane our aim was to develop an event that brought together inspirational minds in an environment where we could use adventure and the outdoors as a medium for leaning engendering conversations around human factors in clinical teams and helping to build life-long networks.

What prompted you to establish WEMski?
Living in the southwest of England, the pace of life is slower, and one imagines less stressful than living in London or one of the big cities. So, it shocked me immensely to notice over the past 12 months or so, a series of media articles about young doctors committing suicide; Rose Polge, Lauren Phillips & Rebecca Ovenden. This shocked, saddened and appalled me in equal measure but it wasn’t something we felt WEM was in a position to address in any way.

After a period of reflection, however, we realised that WEM is full of amazing individuals who have achieved amazing feats of endurance, worked in war zones really pushing themselves emotionally and physically to the very extremes and rather than not contributing to the conversation we could actually do something positive.WEM mentor and social innovator David Weil fully backed the idea ‘WEM’s heritage of positive engagement in extreme edges of medicine combining adventure, the outdoors and positivity makes using the Italian Alps the perfect setting for talking about mental health and human factors in medicine’. This also ties in with Weil’s time as past trustee with the Royal Marines Charity and partner with Solidarité Défense which deals overwhelmingly with PTSD both in the UK and France.

What make the WEMski faculty so different?
All the faculty have undergone significant tests to their character, and they come from a huge range of backgrounds from Xtreme Everest summiteer and world cold weather injury authority Prof. Chris Imray, to extreme expeditioner and ‘Ice Maiden’ Dr Natalie Taylor to clinical Psychologist Dr Kate Baecher. Gathering them in one place allows us to really learn how they have coped with their difficult periods and how they overcame significant challenges to achieve personal success.

What do you hope to achieve with WEMski?
We want to give the folk attending WEMski a toolbox of stress-busting techniques and the ability to manage teams more effectively recognising the value of a human factors approach. WEMski is designed to equip you with the tools to not just cope, but to thrive in extreme environments. We want attendees to go away inspired as to where their medical training might take them with an address book full to the brim of great contacts.

To find out more about WEMski or to book your place on what we promise will be an incredibly fun, diverse and inspiring week, please click here.


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