The wellbeing of Doctors
As doctors, our career is all about improving the health of others — but sometimes this can come at the cost of looking after our own.
Being healthy means more than just the absence of ill-health. It encompasses mental, physical and social wellbeing, and it enables us to practice effectively throughout our careers — including during our training.
While doctors are less likely to suffer from lifestyle related illnesses linked to smoking, diet or exercise, they are more vulnerable to mental health and wellbeing issues compared to the general population.
In Australia, doctors report substantially higher rates of attempted suicide and suicide compared to other professionals, with suicide more common in female doctors. Help us turn this around.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians believes that improving the health and wellbeing of medical professionals requires the cooperation of government, employers, colleges, regulators, doctors’ health services, senior leaders, supervisors, colleagues and doctors themselves.
While we have a shared responsibility for doctors’ health, it is essential for doctors to take care of their own health, for their benefit and for the benefit of their families, their patients and the healthcare system.
We have begun to form a coalition of partners across the sector that will focus on systemic issues.
The Health of Doctors Position Statement (2017)
Doctors' Health and Wellbeing FAQ
Respectful behaviour in College training programs
Statement on Professional Behaviour
"While Australia’s health ministers consider whether to change the law about mandatory reporting, it is important that all doctors realise that the threshold for requiring a mandatory report is high, only reached when an impaired doctor is placing the public at risk of substantial harm. This should not deter us from seeking help and support when we need it."
Dr Joanna Flynn AM,
Chair, Medical Board of Australia
What you can do
We encourage all doctors to see their general practitioner on a regular basis. Every doctor should have a General Practitioner (GP) who they see routinely. A GP can assist in general health maintenance, including physical and mental wellbeing. Physicians should never self-diagnose or self-prescribe.
We also urge you to monitor your own physical and emotional wellbeing, and to seek early assistance if you have any concerns or experience significant stress.
Caring for other doctors requires sensitivity. We encourage doctors to provide support and assistance to colleagues — including trainees — in a compassionate and confidential manner.
About mandatory notification
There is some understandable confusion and speculation around the rules of mandatory notification, resulting in reluctance on the part of distressed doctors to seek assistance for personal issues because of fears it may have a career impact.
See the National Boards and APRHA guidelines for specific guidance.
"We know mental health problems need to be dealt with earlier rather than later. I’d certainly encourage Fellows, trainees and other medical professionals to seek advice and support from mentors, supervisors or from the relevant Doctors’ Health Advisory Service."
Professor Richard Doherty,
Former Dean of the RACP