Meet Jim Christenson, BC Emergency Medicine Network

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Jim Christenson

The BC Emergency Medicine Network is uniting clinicians, academics and researchers, across the province in a brand-new way.

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The BC Emergency Medicine Network (BC EM Network) connects 1,400 provincial emergency practitioners in 108 emergency departments with each other and provides access to current, practical resources all in one online site. In this way, the Network streamlines connections between academics, policy makers, administrators, managers, and patients with front-line clinicians. Put more simply, the website is the tool and the Network is the people.

Launched initially as a demonstration project of the BC SUPPORT Unit, the EM Network has developed substantially in the past year within the larger BC AHSN organization.

“We’re very grateful for the support of the BC SUPPORT Unit to build the Network and demonstrate how we can more effectively support clinicians in the field providing emergency care,” said Jim Christenson, the BC Emergency Medicine Network’s Executive Lead in a recent interview. “We’ve developed a system where the discussions about issues related to clinical emergency care, research and education support can be shared. Wisdom comes from all around the province and is now available to all.”


Instead of creating yet another silo, the EM Network has done the opposite; it’s created a provincial team all focused on providing excellent emergency care, to encourage collaboration and new partnerships.


In addition to leading the BC EM Network, Dr. Christenson is an emergency physician working at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, as well as a professor and department head of emergency medicine at UBC. His clinical and research experience stimulated an idea to combine the expertise of clinicians and academics in a more effective way to change the way emergency practitioners in the province communicate and share knowledge.

“About four years ago, we hatched the idea [for the EM Network] because my colleagues in the academic enterprise for emergency medicine in the province developed the vision that the purpose of academics is to improve clinical care,” he recalled. “But at the time, we didn’t have a mechanism to do that.”

He explained that academics were isolated from the broad group of emergency practitioners and that they traditionally conducted research and educated trainees in silos.

“If you were doing research, you published an article, and threw it over the wall and hoped people would read it,” he noted. “That wasn’t good enough.”

He asked himself, and his colleagues, what the academic research community could do to effectively improve the traditional knowledge translation process on a structural and functional basis to bridge research and clinical practice.

“That’s where the idea of the BC Emergency Medicine Network came from,” he recalled. “We would bring more than 1,400 practitioners across the province who were seeing patients in emergency departments together into one place where they could access materials that are important to them, and of use right at the patient’s bedside.”

Instead of creating yet another silo, the EM Network has done the opposite; it’s created a provincial team all focused on providing excellent emergency care, to encourage collaboration and new partnerships.

“When you put [our idea] together, it was a way of saying ‘let’s truly integrate traditional academics and clinical expertise – not just from universities – and share it across the province,’” he said. “That’s what an academic health science network is.”

Originally partnered with the BC SUPPORT Unit as a way to increase the impact of patient-oriented research done in BC, the EM Network has grown from a finite project to a full network, expanding into the realm of the BC Academic Health Science Network and its broader work in creating change through the collaboration between clinical experts, health researchers and academics across the province.

“This is the novel and innovative nature of the network – nothing like this [the BC EM Network] has really ever been done,” Dr. Christenson noted. “We started out with the name of the demonstration project – we’ve really become a formal network that’s fully functioning.”

BC AHSN is providing leadership into the integration of research and clinical care, and Dr. Christenson feels that the EM Network is the most established Clinical Learning Network in the portfolio.


“As a group of emergency practitioners, we can all practice better if we share information and wisdom with each other.”


“[BC AHSN is] more than a SUPPORT unit for researchers,” he observed. “It’s a way to take relevant research from around the world and translate that knowledge to the people that need it clinically or to help change policy in a much more rapid way than we’ve ever been able to do before.”

“To create these changes,” he continued, “we need to develop what used to be called communities of practice. In our case, we’ve chosen to call ours the BC Emergency Medicine Network, but they can also be called learning cooperatives – regardless of name, it’s all about creating a Learning Health System.”

Dr. Christenson noted that BC AHSN’s work in integrating clinicians in the province with valuable knowledge translation, knowledge mobilization and behaviour change will be a true strength for the organization.

“This is something that nobody else in the health care system, in the academic world, really does well [yet] in a meaningful way for large groups of health care providers and patients.”

As for the future of the BC EM Network?

“We’re not focused on one disease,” Dr. Christenson noted. “The Network is focused on the environment where emergency practitioners see whatever comes through the emergency department front door. As a group of emergency practitioners, we can all practice better if we share information and wisdom with each other.

“Our goal is to continue to enrich the EM Network’s resources to be the main resource for BC emergency practitioners,” he continued. “Much work still remains to be done; we hope that there will be sustainable funding to continue to bring the exceptional value the Network brings to the practice of emergency medicine across the province.”