Mastering Intensive Care 047 with Matt Morgan

Medicine is mostly a series of stories of people’s lives. This is a privilege we often overlook. In Intensive Care we usually only have a glimpse into each life, an almost unrecognisable flash of physical suffering, medical procedure, bedside vigil and hopefully recovery, but sadly we often miss the end of the story. What happened to that person? Did they recover? Did they regain their previous life? What do they remember?

Questions we address include: Have you visited any of your past patients or their families in their homes? Would this be difficult? What might you learn?

Dr Matt Morgan, a Welsh Intensivist, didn’t enjoy missing the end of these stories, and he wasn’t sure that laypeople really understood what we do in the ICU. So he took it upon himself to visit some of the patients or their families who he had helped care for in the Intensive Care Unit. And what he learned helped him write his recently published book “Critical – science and stories from the brink of life”.

Matt is a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Cardiff University in the UK. After completing medical school in Cardiff, where he still lives and works, Matt studied ethics at Bristol University, served as a junior doctor in the RAF, and subsequently chose the path of intensive care medicine, training in the UK and Australia, and completing a PhD. Matt is passionate about public engagement and has contributed to multiple scientific articles.

The book “Critical” takes readers on a tour around the intensive care unit, meeting some of his most interesting and memorable cases. These stories include a pregnant woman who survived for weeks without a heart beat, the son of a police officer who was critically injured in a drug lab explosion, a judge who returns to the court room where he needed CPR, and an 18-year-old student who sadly died from sepsis after a trip to Africa. Throughout the book, Matt also highlights public health messages like the importance of bystander CPR, the harms of alcohol, the benefits of organ donation and how medicine is currently battling what should be done with what can be done.

In this podcast conversation you’ll hear Matt speak about his new book, and also about:

  • How he has tried to mix science, history, emotions and humans together in his writing
  • How hard it was to visit some of the patients and their families he wrote about in his book
  • The value of doing this “deep follow up”
  • The story of Vivi, who is understood to be the world’s first ever Intensive Care patient
  • How we can increase our use of narrative medicine including in medical note writing
  • The changes he’s made to the process of his ward round
  • Some of his thoughts on burnout and how he deals with the demands of work
  • The importance he places on sleep
  • His views on mindfulness
  • What he says and does in a family meeting
  • The question he thinks is crucial in a family meeting
  • How he involves trainees in these meetings
  • Some advice for difficult conversations
  • The value of reading outside of intensive care and outside of medicine
  • His obsession with animal physiology
  • His thoughts on changes we need to make in intensive care

Matt is an excellent writer with a gift for describing disease and concepts very simply. He speaks articulately too. Please enjoy listening to Matt Morgan.

People, organisations and resources mentioned in the episode:

Further reading and listening

Dr Andrew Davies MBBS FRACP FCIC. Intensivist/researcher at Frankston Hospital, Melbourne. Aiming to bring my best self to work & life. | Mastering Intensive Care | New Normal project |

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