The President's Message – 24 June 2022

I want to talk with you about burnout. Some of you may have seen the RACP’s commentary in Australian national media about burnout and that it is an urgent issue for the health system. It is a complex issue that’s been brewing for years. But now, we're facing a perfect storm and it’s not going to go away. For many of us, COVID-19 has been the final straw.

The World Health Organization describes burnout as resulting from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed.

I recently spoke with a physician who has experienced burnout. Listen to her words:

"Burnout is frankly an awful experience, with so many contributing factors, and few genuine answers or solutions in today's way of working.

The solutions that do exist are mostly in the individual's sphere, such as making enormous life-changing decisions that add to the stress of the situation.

This also implies the burnout was the individual’s fault or responsibility – so compounding the trauma."

In a small RACP survey of members in 2021, we found that 87 per cent of respondents reported burnout. A small 2021 study in Aotearoa New Zealand across 24 specialties found nearly half of senior doctors were on the verge of burnout. 

Associate Professor Natasha Smallwood, thoracic physician in Melbourne is leading research on burnout in the Australian health profession.

In her large survey of nearly 10,000 Australian healthcare workers, they found:

  • 71 per cent reported moderate to severe burnout
  • most were aware that they were experiencing mental health symptoms, but did not access any formal mental health support
  • junior doctors were more affected than senior doctors
  • burnout affects women more than men in our profession
  • but importantly, individuals were highly resilient.

Why does burnout matter? It matters because it affects the quality of healthcare we can provide. And it matters because we, as a College, care about our members.

Many of us are physicians and trainees because ultimately, we are altruistic people. We want to make a difference, but even the altruistic have their limits.

Our College is advocating for the need to reform the healthcare system. Through the lens of the Quadruple Aims, we recognise that improving provider experience is a key component for a quality healthcare system. This means providing access to tools and resources to address provider burden and burnout. It means finding out what leads to burnout in our profession. It means talking to physicians and paediatricians about what can be done differently.

What is our College doing to address burnout? Firstly, we are advocating with governments to address burnout as a priority for the health system. Flexibility to take leave or work part time is important throughout our career, but its particularly important during training. Our College supports flexible training. I finished my training and worked part-time for most of my career. We are reviewing our flexible training policy to ensure that it aligns with both training standards and the contemporary contexts for trainees.

We know the exams can contribute to the stress experienced by trainees. New approaches to training and assessment are underway that include a competency-based assessment process. There is work underway to take forward the recommendations from the Safe Training Environments Summit

Supervisors of training undertake training modules to build their skills in supporting trainees.

We’ve just launched our RACP Gender Equity in Medicine Working Group Report. This provides us with a foundation to address gender inequities in medicine, and these can contribute to burnout.

The Board has established a Wellbeing Committee to examine how we can better support our members.

Burnout and wellbeing are issues that are front and centre for the Board, and for me.

As your President, I would like to visit regions across both our countries, to listen to you about what more we can do as a College to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Dr Jacqueline Small
RACP President


Gender equity in medicine

Our profession is changing

We are pleased to announce we launched the Gender Equity in Medicine Working Group Report on 21 June 2022. Thank you to all those who attended and supported this important event.

Visit the gender equity in medicine webpage to access the Report, the launch event recording, and other resources, and stay up to date with College initiatives. We also encourage interested members to get involved with the new Gender Equity in Medicine Committee.

Find out more

Queens' Birthday Honours List 2022

Congratulations to the 26 RACP Fellows recognised in the 2022 Queen's Birthday Honours list. These awards highlight the outstanding work RACP members do and the importance of that work in local, national and international communities.

Read more

New College Dean appointed

Kudzai KanhutuWe are delighted to announce that Dr Kudzai Kanhutu MBBS (Hons) BA BSc MPH FRACP GAICD will become our new College Dean, effective 26 September. Professor Andrew Coats AO will hand over to Kudzai at that point, and we thank Andrew for his service to the College and wish him the best for the future.

Dr Kanhutu is a general infectious diseases physician currently providing clinical care to patients at Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH). She has a background in immunology and is a current executive MBA candidate at the University of Sydney.

Her special research interests include public health policy and women’s health, the use of digital technology in health and she has a particular interest in technical solutions to health problems from her experiences of health inequality in her birth country Zimbabwe and working in rural and regional Australia.

Missed out on RACP Congress 2022: A Climate for change? You can still watch the sessions

With over 45 hours of content, hear from expert voices talking on a range of topics

Hear the latest on COVID-19, the vaccines and variants. Hear about studies on the impacts of microbiomes in tackling obesity, and clinical advances in endoscopy. Watch a panel discussion on Indigenous health and the challenges we face in closing the gap, and the excellent session about physician health and wellbeing.

Advocates talk about how to make your voice heard and raise awareness of issues you are passionate about or maybe you simply want to hear what is happening in other specialties.

Virtual tickets are available until 30 June 2022, with access to recorded sessions available until 30 October 2022.

  • Fellows $484
  • Trainees $127
  • Overseas Trained Physicians $127

Aotearoa New Zealand post-Congress access

Australia post-Congress access

What will it take to achieve a healthy climate?

Healthy Climate Future campaign image'Together, the Presidents of 10 medical colleges wrote an open letter to political leaders calling for a climate-ready and climate-friendly healthcare system. We are ready to be part of the solution' says the newly-elected RACP President, Dr Jacqueline Small in an opinion piece with Croakey News.

The recommendations we are making to Government are based on Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice by The Monash Sustainable Development Institute report, and supported by case studies developed by the Climate and Health Alliance, which were commissioned by the RACP.

Join the campaign

RACP Online Learning

The RACP offers an extensive collection of online learning resources designed to support members with their professional development and lifelong learning needs.

New Cultural Safety Curated Collection

The new Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori Cultural Safety Curated Collection supports physicians in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to provide more impactful, meaningful, culturally-safe care for Indigenous patients, their families, whānau and communities. The Collection presents a detailed library of resources that can help you understand and implement culturally safe practices in your workplace. Filter the library by theme, country, resource type and level of experience to find the resources most relevant to you. We encourage you to revisit this Curated Collection as you develop your understanding of cultural safety over time and consider how this can shape your practice.

Don’t forget to claim CPD credits for time spent on RACP Online Learning.

Watch The Digital Physician Webinar Recording on Medflix

What's new in digital health, what do physicians need to know, and what is the RACP's Digital Health Advisory Group doing to support members? Watch the webinar hosted by Associate Professor Clair Sullivan and members of the RACP’s Digital Health Advisory Group to learn about what’s happening in digital health and how it will affect you in practice.

Watch now on Medflix

What's trending on the ROC

The ROC (RACP Online Community) is a secure online forum and series of communities exclusively for all RACP Fellows and trainees. If you haven’t used this type of platform before, think of it as a virtual town hall for the entire College and a series of different online common rooms for different Divisions, Faculties and Chapters. Download the app from the App Store or Google Play, or log in via MyRACP.

Join the discussion on these trending topics:

Log in to the ROC

Expressions of interest

The Consumer Advisory Group seeks a Fellow Co-Chair

The Consumer Advisory Group seeks a Fellow to join as Co-Chair and assist in leading progress of the Group’s work plan. The Group represents the broad views of the community in the work of the College. Closes 30 June 2022.

Submit expression of interest

Join the Governance Committee

We have a member vacancy on the Governance Committee, which is charged with assisting the College with the implementation of governance improvements. Closes 30 June 2022.

Submit expression of interest

Become the Chair of the Australian Medical Council's Medical School Accreditation Committee

The assessment and accreditation of primary medical programs is one of the Australian Medical Council’s core accreditation functions. Find out more about this opportunity. Closes 1 July 2022.

Expression of interest form

Join the Working Group and contribute to climate change and health online learning
Members and subject matter experts will contribute to the development of an online course on the relationship between climate change and health, including patient health, population health and healthcare systems. Closes 8 July 2022.

Submit expression of interest

Share your trainee experiences of working with people with cognitive disability

Trainees are invited to express interest to participate in focus groups about ‘Providing healthcare to patients with cognitive disability’. Closes 8 July 2022.

Submit expression of interest

Join the Gender Equity in Medicine Committee

The RACP is seeking two RACP members for its Gender Equity in Medicine Committee (GEMC) with relevant skills and experience that will add value to and compliment the work of the GEMC. Closes 11 July 2022.

Submit expression of interest

Join the Advanced Training Committee in Nephrology

Expressions of interest are open for two vacant positions on the Advanced Training Committee in Nephrology. Closes 11 July 2022. 
Find out about more opportunities on the expressions of interest webpage.

RACP media releases

Would you like to learn more about the issues we're advocating for on your behalf? Check out the media releases webpage, which includes all our media releases, including the following, which have been published this month: 

Read more

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