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RACP calls on doctors to take better care of their health

Media Release

RACP calls on doctors to take better care of their health

Monday, 27 May 2013

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), Australia's largest specialist medical college, will today launch its Health of Doctors Position Statement, which urges doctors to take better care of their own health, and give higher priority to personal and family healthcare.

RACP President Associate Professor Leslie E. Bolitho AM said doctors dedicate their professional lives to looking after the health and wellbeing of others but, like anyone else, need to look after their own health.

“Doctors have a responsibility to themselves, their families, their patients and the healthcare system to safeguard their own health and wellbeing,” said Associate Professor Bolitho.

“While collectively doctors enjoy comparatively good physical health, the characteristics of medical practice and the personalities it attracts predispose doctors to higher than average health risks in certain areas.

“Certain subgroups of doctors, including medical students and trainees, rural and remote doctors, women and indigenous doctors, are at greater risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes due to particular stressors associated with their situation.

“These adverse health outcomes include burnout, anxiety, depression, substance use problems or dysfunctional personal relationships.

“Historically, the culture of the medical profession has encouraged doctors to sacrifice their own health through accepted practices such as working long hours and taking work home.”

The RACP notes that some doctors may be reluctant to seek appropriate medical care and may feel uncomfortable assuming the role of patient when health concerns arise, and instead opt to treat themselves or seek informal care from a colleague.

Doctors are encouraged to seek independent medical consultations, and there is growing recognition that a particular skill set can be taught to help doctors treat other doctors more effectively.

The RACP recognises that increasingly efforts are being made to address counterproductive workplace behaviours and that managing one’s own health is an integral part of professionalism for all doctors.

As the body that trains specialist physicians in Australia and New Zealand, the RACP believes it has an important role to play in engaging its members around this issue, and is in a strong position to support and reinforce the health and wellbeing needs of the medical workforce in the early stages of medical careers. Occupational Physicians can assist in maintaining doctors at work or returning doctors to work in a safe and structured way.

The RACP has a number of initiatives underway to support Fellows and Trainee members with health concerns. In 2014 the RACP will launch a formal early intervention program to identify and support Trainee members in difficulty. This is intended as a mechanism to provide help before a Trainee member becomes subject to the formal Independent Review of Training consequent to unsatisfactory performance.

In New Zealand, the RACP has published a resource entitled “How to Survive as a New Consultant” that contains advice for newly qualified specialist physicians.

Regulatory frameworks are also an important consideration, as mandatory reporting of impaired doctors can act as a deterrent to seeking help. The RACP welcomes the action that regulatory, accreditation and indemnity bodies are taking to support doctors’ health.

Ends

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