Dr here for the people

22:30, Dec 06 2012

Paper cuts, stubbed toes, heart attacks and major injuries are part of the job for Wairau Hospital accident and emergency specialist Stuart Watchman.

But it's not the "blood and guts" that have kept Dr Watchman working in the acute medicine area for 20 years, rather the connection with people.

Dr Watchman has just celebrated two decades of service with the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board - fours years in Nelson and 16 in Blenheim - and has no plans to leave anytime soon.

"The thing I enjoy most is connecting with people," he said.

"Even if you're busy, you still have a chat with them about work or what they're interested in. It rounds off the whole interaction and I always learn what's happening around Marlborough."

The emergency department had changed since he started as a house surgeon at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim in 1992.


"In those days a first-year house surgeon would look after the accident and emergency depart- ment alone," he said.

New doctors relied on the nursing staff, Dr Watchman said.

"We'd get advice from the nurses, have a text book in one hand and have to use a bit of common sense," he said.

"It was a steep learning curve, a real baptism of fire."

These days, first-year doctors didn't work in the emergency ward and junior doctors were well supervised, Dr Watchman said.

The emergency department team at Wairau has grown to seven senior doctors and five junior doctors, he said.

Another big change was the approach to emergency medicine.

"There's a more rapid identification of a patient's underlying problem, getting them the right treatment in a timely fashion and admitting them to hospital if necessary."

Two decades of experience had taught Dr Watchman how to deal with more serious injuries and deaths, he said.

"It's something you can't take personally. It affects you at the time but you have to quickly move on and see the next patient.

"You are no use to anyone being incapacitated with grief."

The support of his wife Clare, a midwife, made it easier to unburden at the end of the day.

"You don't go into detail or mention any names of course, I just say, ‘I dealt with this and this today' and she understands what I'm talking about."

The Marlborough Express