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Australasian Doctors Health Conference

Biennial conference held around Australia and New Zealand raising awareness of doctors' and medical students' health and wellbeing.

Most recent conference was held in Fremantle, Western Australia, from 21st to 23rd November 2019. You can view some of the presentations and posters here. Further key messages and links to information are detailed below:

2019 Conference Theme: “Creating a healthy workplace”

Over 220 doctors and doctors’ health services’ teams met in sunny Fremantle for the biennial conference to share ideas, actions and programs about medical practitioner and medical student health and wellbeing.

International and local presenters shared how they are implementing ‘change’ across the system, organisation and individual levels. Hosted by Doctors' Health Advisory Service Western Australia and Rural Health West.

A short summary of highlights and links of some of the information that some of the SA delegates captured.

Professor Fiona Wood (AM) was keynote speaker – some key points:

“We have a responsibility for our culture and our teams, we work in a very complicated environment”

“Important to have mutual respect and kindness when moving into a new team”

“I encourage a whinge free zone” and to move forward it, it changing things, doing things differently”

“Bottom line is that wellness is getting up in the morning and enjoying what you do. And bring your best self to the table, it’s hard day in and day out and so you must bring your best team to the table. Start look at the culture you lived in the health dept the culture is in your hands, and it’s about us driving something we a proud of and special and in order to do that, then our wellness is important. Eat well, sleep well and exercise…. This is a big part of what you need to do. Exercise and good nutrition are fundamental”

“we are all in this together” “we all bare scars”

“for all of us, for this health system to be sustainable across the community…to influence those around you, that understanding how to be our best selves and bring down the path of understanding, we need to reach out and make sure we have connections and have a doctor for ourselves, we need to keep us for family and work colleagues….changing the culture and driving the culture and hand on to our kids and grandkids – that in itself building our wellness. Then everyone gets the best and support kindness…”

Dr David Russell-Weisz, WA Health Department

“WA have started watching closely and doing their own surveys of health care staff, aside from Beyond Blue and AMA surveys. There is strong evidence of burnout, no one wants health organisations full of stressed staff.”

“WA health wants to alleviate the stress for all health professionals”

How do you get through the high stress – support reflecting on the most difficult times is that support from friends, and colleagues around you, that can get you through. Checking in that you are ok. Checking in every day allowing that individual to talk to someone every day and having a person to talk to, a friend or colleague to talk to when it becomes too hard.”

Dr Jane Lemaire, Canada (more about Jane here)

“If there is a mismatch of fairness and values in your workplace, then that is a factor of burnout”

“Physicians now have the highest suicide rate of any profession – this is frightening. A lot of people are having trouble to delineate between depression and burn out – burnout is related to work – mental illness – most doctors who suicide have untreated mental illness – careful to check that burn out is not actually mental illness.”

“Physician wellness matters. It must be a shared responsibility:

- The individual

- The culture

- The system

The drivers are not just individual. We all have responsibility.”

Nutrition – The Well Doc nutrition research – How does nutrition effect physicians?

Lemaire, Wallace et al BMC Health Serv Res 2011

“If you eat your brain is going to work better” Food for thought: an exploratory study of how physicians experience poor workplace nutrition https://nutritionj.biomedcentr...

Dr Anne Tonkin – Medical Board

“Seek help when you need it and seek it early, that is my important message to medical practitioners”

“Want to get the message across that registered health practitioners can seek advice for a health condition without the fear of mandatory reporting. Major education campaign coming. Illness is not the same as an impairment. Now a higher threshold for reporting “need to be substantial risk of harm at the time of seeing the person”

Over 70s Health Checks:

- Concept and process in development;

- Broader consultation is expected to occur in the latter part of 2020;

- Do not expect it to be implemented until a couple of years.


Key Highlight from SA delegate, Dr Emily Kirkpatrick, BMed MMed (Skin Cancer) MPH DCH FRACGP

“A key highlight for me was attending the session led by the RPA choir, as part of the MDOK program. The choir was organised by resident Dr Isabel Hansen and led by Liz Lecoanet, an opera singer and choir leader, as an outlet to help doctors feel the positive power of singing! A fantastic initiative supported by Dr Bethan Richards, Chief Medical Wellness Officer. These women were incredible. The concept has really taken off at RPA and they’ve had interest from all around the country as to how other organisations could organise a similar program. The whole room at DHC erupted in singing a melody, with a carefree attitude. It was not about hitting the right note or having perfect pitch, but rather just being in the present moment, forgetting what else may be going on and singing out loud from a place of joy.”

Link to recent article about the RPA Choir https://dhasq.org.au/mdok-now-...

The conference was a totally enjoyable event with much positive energy and passionate people in abundance about improving doctors’ and medical student wellbeing! (Kiara Cannizzaro, Program Manager, Doctors' Health SA)

Congratulations to the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service WA program and Rural Health West for a magnificent job in coordinating this important event.

You can view some of the Conference presentations and posters via this post-conference website here.