‘What keeps me awake at night?’ – Dr Ern Crocker

CMDFA NSW Conference on Moral Injury


from Luke’s Journal 2021 | Fire in the Belly 2021 | Vol.26 No.1

Never have healthcare workers been so pressed or challenged. Never have they been required to dig deeper into their faith or draw nearer to their Heavenly Father for strength and courage. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the introduction of legislation relating to issues such as voluntary assisted dying, gender dysphoria and abortion have challenged us as never before.

In February 2020, the NSW State Committee initiated a weekly prayer meeting on Zoom for members and affiliates to address these issues. Our members began to share their personal circumstances, sometimes specifically, sometimes not, and we were able to pray with and for them. We prayed for healing, against burnout, for practice issues, and for family and personal matters as well. We saw many of those prayers answered. Often people would contact Angela Wang (our National Prayer Convenor) or I after the meeting asking for member’s contact details, that they might pray with them and counsel them privately. 

It became apparent that even as God was moving, there was a counter spiritual movement against Christians. We were naive not to anticipate that this might happen. Many of our members were deeply challenged at work, in the marketplace, and in their personal lives. There were medical board appearances, legal challenges, and major family issues. We understood that our struggles were ‘not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.’ (Ephesians 6:12)

Prompted by the discussion paper on Moral Injury circulated by the Ethics Management team and following discussions with Dr Andrew Sloane (Director of Research /lecturer in Old Testament at Morling College), the NSW State Committee elected to run a webinar dealing with issues associated with this subject.

The webinar would deal with those issues that ‘keep us awake at night’. National experts would discuss concerns relating to voluntary assisted dying, gender dysphoria, and abortion. Speakers would address pressures upon young doctors in training and upon first responders. Burnout, in particular, would be addressed. There would be discussion on the challenges that face healthcare workers on a daily basis. Problems would be defined, and solutions proposed.

Our purpose in providing this webinar was:

  1. To define the issues that face healthcare workers. 
  2. To raise an awareness of these issues in our members.
  3. To provide practical means of approaching these issues in a Christian context.
  4. To raise up a body of people willing to intercede on behalf of and support fellow healthcare workers.

The webinar was presented on November 7, 2020. Transcripts and summaries of the eight people who presented on the day follow. These include:

Dr Andrew Sloane
Director of Research/lecturer in Old Testament & Christian Thought, Morling College.
Andrew introduced the concepts of moral dilemmas, moral luck, moral residue and moral injury in pandemics and everyday practice.

John Steenhof 
Managing Director of Human Rights Law Alliance. 
Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!
Health Regulators, Codes of Conduct and Implications for moral injury to practitioners. 

Prof. John Whitehall 
Professor of Paediatrics and National Chair CMDFA
Issues facing Australian healthcare workers in relation to gender dysphoria.’

Prof. Natasha Michael
Director of Palliative Care, Cabrini Health Melbourne 
Current issues relating to legislation regarding Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Assoc/Prof. Harvey Ward 
Assoc Professor Obstetrics and Gynaecology UNSW
Moral Injury in Carers of Early Pregnancy.’ 

Dr Emily Ivarsson
Senior Resident Medical Officer. Royal Hospital for Women
The Hospital Furnace.
Issues facing interns and doctors-in-training and how to approach them.

Gabi Macaulay
President of the Nurses Christian Fellowship of Australia
What Keeps Nurses Awake at Night – A Personal Experience.’
Issues facing nursing staff and as a first responder.

Dr Tony Rombola
General Practitioner from Windsor
Personal Reflections from General Practice’.
Clinical issues from General Practice and how he has dealt with them.

The most significant issues

The topics of moral trauma and moral stress are perhaps the most significant issues that we have dealt with for many years in terms of the welfare of our members and affiliates. On behalf of the NSW State Committee, I want to thank members of the Ethics Management team for their prompting and encouragement to proceed with this webinar, and to thank all of the contributors for their time, their efforts and their prayerful concern. Readers will be blessed and empowered as they prayerfully consider each presentation.

A video of this talk is available to members of CMDFA. If you are not a member and would like more information please call the CMDFA Office on 02 9680 1233.

Dr Ern Crocker    
Dr Ern Crocker is a recently retired Nuclear Medicine Physician. He is currently the NSW State Chair of CMDFA. He is the author of three books: Nine Minutes Past Midnight, When Oceans Roar and most recently, The Man in White.

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