The ANZCA Doctors’ Support Program is a confidential and independent counselling and coaching service that is now available to all fellows, trainees, specialist international medical graduates (SIMGs) and immediate family members via the helpline, online live chat, the app and face to face meetings. This service is offered confidentially and at no charge, to support our members for a variety of work-related and personal problems that may be affecting work or home life. The helpline is available 24/7.
To protect the personal and psychological wellbeing of our fellows and trainees, we continue to encourage you to access the range of resources through the Wellbeing SIG.
The introduction of library guides through the ANZCA Library has a valuable section on doctors’ welfare that holds resource materials and articles to support and guide fellows and trainees. This guide is updated regularly.
We've approved a new wellbeing CPD education sessions activity for the knowledge and skills category of the ANZCA and FPM CPD program. This activity will attract one credit per hour, capped at 10 per year, and is supported by a new CPD Handbook - Appendix 24 Guidelines for wellbeing CPD education sessions. Full details available here.
Four medical colleges have come together to form a Wellbeing Charter for Doctors that defines wellbeing and sets out the shared responsibility for supporting doctors’ wellbeing.
The charter is a collaborative effort by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM), Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG).
The charter is endorsed by the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC), the unifying organisation for specialist medical colleges of Australia.
“We all have a part to play to support the wellbeing of doctors – medical colleges, individuals, colleagues, managers, hospitals and health jurisdictions,” said Dr Ruth Bollard, Chair, RACS Wellbeing Working Group.
“Doctors who maintain and maximise their health and wellbeing can manage the physical and emotional demands of medicine and the charter seeks to promote the importance of wellbeing for doctors.
“Doctors are encouraged to practice self-care, including prioritising their mental health so they can provide the best care for patients. Everyone needs help at some point and it can be as simple as sharing a problem with a trusted friend or seeking professional support.
“Wellbeing is a collective responsibility,” said Dr John Bonning, ACEM President. “We have a duty to support and advocate for workplaces and systems that promote wellbeing and empower individuals to access solutions that work for them.
RANZCOG President Dr Vijay Roach said: “Fatigue, burnout, physical illness, anxiety and depression are all more prevalent within our profession. Doctors’ wellbeing is a shared responsibility between individuals and system partners. We acknowledge that medical colleges must support both the wellbeing of doctors and provide safe, accessible and inclusive workplaces.”
ANZCA President Dr Vanessa Beavis said: “This charter marks a watershed for this group of medical colleges as it acknowledges the importance of doctors being mindful of their own wellbeing and recognising the signs of burnout, stress and poor mental health in either themselves or their colleagues.”
ANZCA recommends that this document is read in conjunction with PS49 Guideline on the health of specialists, specialist international medical graduates and trainees which provides further details and recommendations.
As doctors, it is particularly important to take time out to focus on self-care by regularly visiting your general practitioner and taking other measures to avoid burnout. By ignoring your own physical or mental health issues, you may be putting yourself and your patients at risk.
Cartoon © Steve Panozzo, The Cartoon Factory
Stress, burnout and fatigue are serious problems with significant consequences.
Fatigue adversely affects your health and dramatically reduces your cognitive function, which in turn impairs your decision making. This puts yourself and others at risk and can impact patient care.
Additionally, doctors who are fatigued are at greater risk of needle stick injury and being involved in motor vehicle accidents. Some of the signs of fatigue and burnout are headaches, feeling run down, difficulty sleeping, fluctuating weight, irritability, loss of confidence and being withdrawn. Use the AMA Fatigue Assessment Tool to determine if you are at risk of fatigue.
Keeping the Doctor Alive is a resource developed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners with information and resources on strategies for self-care specifically designed for medical professionals.
For medical professionals who work long hours it can be challenging to balance work commitments with personal life, family and friends. Take the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons 5 to Thrive challenge to see if you can reclaim five hours a week back from your schedule to recharge and reduce burnout.
Isabel Hanson and Safdar Ahmed have produced a brilliant comic hoping to start a conversation on healthcare culture and burn out. Can you relate?
See the whole comic here.
Building support networks both at work and outside work is recommended to help maintain a balanced life. Gaining peer support from other anaesthetists or trusted colleagues who may understand what you are going through is also a valuable tool.
Look out for your colleagues
As well as being mindful of your own wellbeing, it is equally important to look out for signs of burnout, stress, or poor mental health in your colleagues.
Don't be afraid to approach the elephant in the room. There will never be a perfect time to have this conversation, so be bold and ask "Are you okay?", "How are you really?" or "I've noticed that...". Taking a walk or getting a coffee can be a great way to start the conversation.
Support your colleague and direct them to the help and resources that they need to get them back on track.
Recognising the warning signs for substance abuse
Are you enthusiastic for long, difficult or complicated cases? Do you volunteer to work extra shifts or to do extra or late cases on a list? Are you over-anxious to give breaks to your colleagues?
Did you know that these are some of the warning signs of drug abuse, according the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI)?
These attributes are also those which are generally valued by anaesthetists, which highlights how difficult it can be to recognise substance misuse amongst our colleagues.
For more warning signs and for strategies on what to do when you suspect someone may have a substance abuse problem, read the Wellbeing Special Interest Group resource document RD 20 Substance Abuse 2013.
ANZCA is committed to supporting trainees and fellows through a number of initiatives and activities related to and informed by its Doctors Health and Wellbeing Framework. One such initiative is the Trainee Wellbeing Project Group (TWPG).
The TWPG is now working on:
- Improved introductory training through better integration of the available Part Zero course and trainee orientation and support resources.
- A review of all trainee communications from the college to be more inclusive and considerate and relevant to individual circumstances.
- The role and importance of the welfare advocate in ANZCA-accredited hospital anaesthesia departments including an updated position description.
- The development and promotion of a suite of tailored education tools and wellbeing resources in self-care and healthy lifestyle practices, including strategies to prevent burnout and increase doctors health and wellbeing.
- Formal critical incidence debriefing training resources for fellows and trainees.
The TWPG will continue to engage with more working groups as they work on the implementation of the recommendations of the Trainee Wellbeing Working Group.
For more information or to express interest in joining the TWPG, please contact email@example.com.
We have prepared a series of guidelines for anaesthesia and pain medicine managers, leaders, mentors and colleagues that support excellent professional standards and assist in identifying and managing practitioners who may be performing below an acceptable professional standard.
Welfare advocates are recommended for all ANZCA and FPM-accredited hospitals.
Welfare advocates must have knowledge and an interest in welfare and have the ability to perform a guidance role and offer support to those in need in a confidential manner.
Their role is to offer "welfare first aid" in the first instance and should then refer trainees or colleagues to relevant professional personnel for further advice or assistance if required. For more information please see RD26 Welfare Advocate. If you would like to register as a welfare advocate please contact Membership Services.