Doctors in Australia’s under-pressure health care system face an additional challenge

on

|

views

and

comments

[ad_1]

Doctors working in Australia’s under-pressure healthcare system say the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health challenges some of their colleagues were already struggling to manage.

The risk of taking the virus home, worrying about compromising care for non-Covid patients, and missing out on vital training opportunities are among the issues doctors are facing as they fight the virus on the frontline.

A recent review by the Black Dog Institute and The University of NSW, published in the Lancet, has found doctors are at increased risk of suicide and, in their early years of training, one-quarter to one-third reported significant mental ill-health.

Professor Samuel Harvey, the review’s lead author, said mental health issues were already on the rise in the Australian medical workforce and had been further ramped up by the pandemic.

“Some of the reasons are obvious, that working in medicine can be hard. The hours can be long and it can be quite stressful, but that’s always been the case,” he said.

“What seems to be changing over time is a number of the factors that used to protect doctors have gradually been eroded.”

Ambulances COVID
Camera IconMental health issues were already on the rise in the Australian medical workforce and have been further ramped up by the pandemic. Damian Shaw Credit: News Corp Australia

Professor Harvey, who runs the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Workplace Mental Health Research Program, said junior doctors were particularly at risk.

“All of the usual training and career progression, in terms of the exams, a lot of that is being disrupted. All of the support networks have been disrupted,” he said.

“We’re concerned about junior doctors working in some of the hardest hit areas.”

In NSW, 1231 Covid cases are currently admitted to hospital, with 231 people in intensive care, 108 of whom require ventilation.

Modelling by the independent Burnet Institute predicts hospitalisations will peak in NSW in late October, putting “overwhelming” pressure on intensive care.

Senior medical students are being recruited as assistants in medicine as part of a surge workforce to fight Covid-19 in the state’s hospitals.

Australian Medical Students' Association president Sophie Keen says junior doctors faced serious challenges before the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Supplied
Camera IconAustralian Medical Students' Association president Sophie Keen says junior doctors faced serious challenges before the Covid-19 pandemic. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Australian Medical Students’ Association president Sophie Keen said trainee doctors were excited to contribute, but many were struggling with social disconnectedness and disruptions to their education.

She said junior doctors were reluctant to seek help because of stigma, despite the level of very high psychological distress in doctors under 30 being almost 12 times higher than other Australian professionals.

“[They] are scared to go to their GP because they fear they’ll be reported. They don’t want to present to an emergency department because they’re worried they’ll be recognised, you’re left with very few options,” she said.

Modelling by the independent Burnet Institute predicts hospitalisations will peak in NSW in late October, putting “overwhelming” pressure on intensive care. Kate Geraghty
Camera IconModelling by the independent Burnet Institute predicts hospitalisations will peak in NSW in late October, putting “overwhelming” pressure on intensive care. Kate Geraghty Credit: Supplied

Ms Keen said universities should be positioned as sites of early recognition and affordable, early treatment for mental illness.

She said there needed to be support from the medical community as a whole to tackle “systemic issues that amplify distress”.

“I don’t know a single medical student who hasn’t experienced bullying, discrimination or harassment. For Indigenous medical students the statistic is most experience at least once a week,” she said.

“Your career progression can be entirely dependent on how others perceive you. If you’re perceived as someone who is difficult or complains or can’t just be part of the boys’ club then your career is at risk.

“You think, ‘If I disclosed that I wasn’t coping, what would they think? If they already have these judgments and preconceptions about me or people like me, I can’t give them anything else to latch on to’.”

Royal Australasian College of Physicians president Professor John Wilson says doctors are facing mental health challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Supplied
Camera IconRoyal Australasian College of Physicians president Professor John Wilson says doctors are facing mental health challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Royal Australasian College of Physicians president John Wilson said junior doctors were missing out on opportunities for professional development, because of Covid, in an increasingly competitive profession.

He said it was stressful for doctors at any stage of their careers not being able to deliver the highest quality clinical care due to pandemic pressures including cuts to elective surgery.

“One needs to think seriously about how do med practitioners access care for themselves or their families. One might think no one has better access to psychological support than doctors do. It’s not like that,” he said.

“There’s the risk of stigma, the evasive issue of inconsiderate approaches from colleagues and there’s also the uncertainty of the future should one seek help because of psychological distress.”

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Karen Price said burnout was a serious consideration for medical practitioners during the pandemic.

“It’s a pretty tough call [to say what should be done] but people need a rest, they need certainty and they need to see that their work is valued,” she said.

Black Dog and UNSW in partnership with the federal government have set up a new, free and anonymous mental health service for all health professionals, including doctors, called The Essential Network.

Mental health support

[ad_2]

Share this
Tags

Must-read

Tammy Hembrow shows off her ‘unreal’ six pack transformation

Tammy Hembrow is known for her trademark booty, but she’s left her followers floored after showing off her sculpted abs.She’s Australia’s biggest fitness...

NRL news 2021: Manly Sea Eagles police escort, Manly vs South Sydney preliminary final

Manly needed a police escort to get to its preliminary final and several NRL legends believe doesn’t bode well for the Sea Eagles.Manly...

Xplore wins $2M Pentagon contract f to speed up work on Xcraft

Redmond, Wash.-based Xplore says it has received...
spot_img

Recent articles

More like this

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here