Junior doctors reveal fear mistakes from exhaustion, survey shows

28 Oct 2020

Junior doctors reveal fear mistakes from exhaustion survey shows


Nearly half of Queensland’s trainee doctors are worried they will make a clinical mistake because they are exhausted from working excessively long hours, according to the latest AMA Queensland public hospital report card.

The 2020 Resident Hospital Health Check (RHHC), which compares employment conditions at public hospitals across the state, surveyed 730 interns, house officers and other junior doctors.

AMA Queensland Council of Doctors in Training Chair, Dr Maddison Taylor said 48 per cent reported concerns about making an error due to fatigue, and one quarter had not been fully paid for the overtime hours worked.

“Disturbingly, 27 per cent of junior doctors were advised not to claim unrostered overtime by an administrative officer or senior medical officer, and another third felt claiming would negatively affect their assessment,” she said.

“This year’s survey also revealed a rise in junior doctors feeling unsafe at work, from 22 per cent in 2019 to 27 per cent in 2020, reflecting the impact of COVID in our hospitals.”

Dr Taylor said rates of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment remained too high in Queensland’s public hospitals.
“The overall proportion of junior doctors who personally experienced these behaviours has decreased from 39 per cent in 2019 to 34 per cent this year, however, the rate of staff witnessing bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment of a colleague has stayed the same at just over 40 per cent,” she said.

“Of those who experienced or witnessed bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment, less than one-third reported the incident, and only 65 per cent felt the matter was handled adequately when they did report it. We need to do better.”

Dr Taylor said hospitals needed to be supportive, safe places for Queensland’s newest generation of doctors.

“Doctors need to be able to work in healthy hospitals so they can provide the best possible patient care and thrive in their careers,” she said.

“As evidenced in the survey, doctors in training are working exceedingly long hours and in some cases without adequate senior support. This predisposes us to burnout, and increases the rates of anxiety and depression, so it’s important not only to fix the systemic issues at play in our hospitals but also to provide practical support and advice in those early years.”

AMA Queensland has called on the next State Government to commit $1.67 million to fund a Wellness at Work program to ensure all junior doctors receive the resilience training and support they need in their first five years of training.

The call for funding is included in AMA Queensland’s 11-Point Action Plan – The Pathway to Better Health for Queenslanders which also calls on all political parties competing in this month’s election to commit to reviewing the mandatory reporting laws.

AMA Queensland President Professor Chris Perry said the laws, introduced last year, actively discouraged doctors from seeking medical treatment when they needed it.

“The laws require health practitioners to report fellow clinicians if they believe they have depression, anxiety or another mental illness that could place the public at risk,” he said.

“The result is usually revoking of the doctor’s medical licence, even though their illness may be extremely treatable. Practitioners should have equal rights to access confidential high-quality medical treatment for mental health issues without feeling threatened that their medical licence will be revoked.

“Every year in Queensland, at least four doctors take their own lives. These deaths could be prevented if doctors were able to seek treatment without fear of losing their ability to practice medicine.”



Published: 28 Oct 2020