The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, along with other specialist medical Colleges and organisations created a Wellbeing Working Group to study and recommend possible actions for the wellbeing of doctors and the broader medical community.
In response, the group released the Wellbeing Charter on the 17th of August, the same week as the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine’s Wellness Week.
According to Dr Ruth Bollard, Chair of the 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.”
Dr Kym Jenkins, Chair of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC), also notes that the charter “unites us as medical professionals, whatever our specialty or career stage, in the recognition that the wellbeing not only of our colleagues but also our own wellbeing is paramount.”
The Wellbeing Charter outlines guiding principles that doctors can apply to look after their wellbeing. “Wellbeing” in this scenario includes all the aspects of health - physical, mental, emotional, and culturally - and the relationships formed on a professional and personal level.
For GPs, the professional level reaches into the interactions they have with patients, other GPs, and members of the medical team, and it’s critical to the delivery of good medical services. The wellbeing charter also highlights actions for managers and leaders, hospitals and jurisdictions, and other medical colleagues.
This holistic approach to physician wellbeing is valuable because it supports GPs who are otherwise unable to address their health for fear of being ostracised or considered weak. It could also help reduce the rate of burnout and suicide in the profession.
Fundamental principles of the Wellbeing Charter
The charter outlines five fundamental principles, and they address everything from the optimised delivery of patient care to the improved support of doctors.
Maintaining wellbeing leads to the performance of high quality and effective healthcare delivery and optimised patient care.
Doctors who maintain and maximise their health and wellbeing can manage the physical and emotional demands of medicine.
Wellbeing is essential to achieving the competencies required for good medical practice.
Wellbeing is beneficial to the individual and to the medical community in which doctors work.
Jurisdictions, hospitals and medical colleges must support the wellbeing of doctors and provide an environment that is safe, accessible and inclusive for all.
Charter recommendations for doctors
The Wellbeing Charter outlines 8 steps for doctors:
Practise self-care and continually evaluate what works best for them to stay productive, survive, and thrive. This includes basic needs like adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, hydration, regular breaks, creating boundaries, and engaging in hobbies and other enriching activities.
Have their own General Practitioner and have regular check-ups.
Grow a network of support that includes colleagues, friends and family with whom they can share good and difficult times.
Be aware of and access professional support services that provide advice and a safe space.
Acknowledge the benefits of kindness and compassion towards self, colleagues and patients.
Show compassion and encourage others to seek help in challenging times.
Prepare in advance for the changes that punctuate a career in medicine.
Are aware that we are a role model to colleagues and the community.
Charter recommendations for colleagues, managers and leaders
For colleagues, the charter recommends that
They are aware of and sensitive to the needs of colleague’s lives.
Are prepared to support each other in times of need.
For managers and leaders,
Have an obligation to foster wellbeing.
Proactively discuss wellbeing at departmental or team meetings.
Ensure that there is a safe and supportive environment to confidentially discuss concerns with colleagues.
Have fluent processes to support and assist colleagues.
Charter recommendations for hospitals and jurisdictions
For hospitals and jurisdictions, the charter recommends 6 steps:
Have a role to support a work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible for all, including those with disabilities and chronic illness.
Have an obligation to provide a safe and healthy working environment including cover for sick leave, reasonable working hours and flexible work options.
Support doctors’ wellbeing by creating a culture of care and compassion.
Have doctors’ wellbeing at the core of healthcare strategy and leadership accountability.
Provide practical and emotional support to teams and individuals.
Offer and promote targeted initiatives to enhance protective factors that affect overall wellbeing.
According to Dr Scott Ma, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Councillor, the charter “is a positive acknowledgement that medical colleges are committed to doctor's health and wellbeing and will assist organisations to prioritise actions that meet the intent of the document.”
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