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Mastering Intensive Care

Aug 30, 2017

Whilst the skills of applying life support and resuscitation take up most of our training, they are relatively easier to master than the skills that allow us to become good at diagnosis, good at communication, and most of all good at being resilient over a whole career so we can satisfactorily work with others and deal with the stress of working in intensive care. Peter Brindley, a Canadian intensivist from Edmonton, thinks that these “human factors” are crucial for us to master, especially in the second half of our careers, when we should be striving to be simply “a good person”.

In this episode Peter reflects, tells some stories, and invites us to consider many important topics that will help us become better people. These include reflection, simulation, mental rehearsal, debriefing, dealing with upset people and the feeling of being an “imposter”.

Peter is a full-time critical care doctor at the University of Alberta Hospital. He is a Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Anaesthesiology, and Medical Ethics. He has published papers and given talks widely. He was a founding member of the Canadian Resuscitation Institute; and was previously Medical-Lead for Simulation, Residency Program Director, and Education Lead at the University of Alberta. He is proudest of his two children, neither of whom care one iota what titles he may or may not possess. He is convinced that happiness rests in finding meaning and showing gratitude - he occasionally succeeds.

This is the second in a series of DasSMACC special episodes, where I interviewed speakers from the recent DasSMACC conference held in Berlin. In addition to the human factors described above, we also spoke at length about burnout, its relationship to resilience, and the potential benefits of both working less (like part-time) and of having eccentric hobbies or passions. Peter spoke on several other topics including:

  • His life journey from growing up in the United Kingdom to becoming a Canadian for all of his adult life
  • The country of Canada, it’s national identity and it’s intensive care system
  • The hallmarks of good teams
  • Rudeness and its iatrogenic effects (including when family members are rude)
  • The components of communication – including verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal
  • A situation when Peter was accused of unprofessional behaviour and how he dealt with that
  • How Peter has used a mini-sabbatical to reflect and to think about the next part of his career
  • Exercise and the risk that it, other hobbies and material things can become like fetishes
  • How our careers can be broken into thirds of “learning, earning and returning” but that we should consider all three in even the smaller periods like weeks or months
  • The benefits of having an identity that is more than simply being a doctor
  • His time on a cruise ship where he worked as an anonymous doctor
  • How he is more proud of his writing of poetry and travel-writing than some of the medical papers he has published.

With this podcast, and the previous episodes, please help me in my quest to improve patient care, in ICUs all round the world, by inspiring all of us to bring our best selves to work to more masterfully interact with our patients, their families, ourselves and our fellow healthcare professionals so that we can achieve the most satisfactory outcomes for all.

You can send any comments through the Life In The Fast Lane website, facebook (masteringintensivecare), twitter (@andrewdavies66) or by simply emailing


Show notes (people, organisations, resources or links mentioned in the episode):

Dr Peter Brindley:

DasSMACC website:

Dr Sara Gray:

Dr Chris Hicks: