The President's Message – 24 March

Our College is taking leadership on the important current issue of trainee physician health and wellbeing, and management of stress during training and in the workplace.

Last Wednesday at the RACP we brought together 13 Directors of Physician Education from across New South Wales, along with senior Health Department officials, training network managers, health education providers, member support officers and College staff in a forum about this issue.

We exchanged ideas on trainee wellbeing, with a particular focus on identification of and support of trainees at risk of stress overload.

A psychiatrist presented to all of us about warning signs to watch for, and some immediate supportive actions that can be taken to help.

For supervisors and member support officers, who interact most closely with trainees, this sort of information was particularly helpful.

Yesterday our College Council also looked in depth at this issue in its first meeting of 2017, covering the resources currently available and barriers to doctors seeking help.

One of the most important things any doctor can do when feeling under extreme pressure is make sure they are talking to their own doctor. Research shows that up to 40 per cent of us don’t have our own general practitioner (GP) – let alone any more specialised form of care. I have my own GP whom I see at least twice a year. Find a doctor you trust when you just need routine or preventive healthcare and who you will feel comfortable discussing more complex issues with.

The hurried corridor consultation with a colleague regarding one’s own health is still far too prevalent amongst medical professionals.

We often hear the concern expressed that asking for help could result in a black mark on a future career.

The reality is that many doctors have had difficult times, mental health issues or other illnesses and needed support during ​Basic and ​Advanced Training, and have gone on to successful careers as physicians.

I want to emphasise again that 24/7 advice services like Converge are totally confidential – you don’t even have to provide your name or member identification number. The same is true of external services such as the Doctor’s Health Advisory Service, beyondblue in Australia, and Lifeline in both Australia and New Zealand.

Information on support services and resources are now even available as quickly as downloading an app to your phone. You’ll find the Converge app on Google Play and iTunes. It has many resources, support information, checklists and suggestions.

Learning to practice as a physician is immensely rewarding, and at times very challenging.

For whatever reason – if you are going through a time where those challenges are starting to feel overwhelming – reach out – help is available.

Dr Catherine Yelland
RACP President

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