Blog

Burnt out and nowhere to go?

Wednesday August 26, 2020

Dr Rebecca Tynas

Have you experienced burnout? I have, and what was most shocking from my experience was how quickly it overwhelmed me, my mental health and soon after, my physical wellbeing.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can acknowledge that I performed my work poorer during that particular term than any other before or since – I used to dread coming to work.

Worst of all, my state of burnout wasn’t an anomaly – 43 per cent of the 750 doctors in training (DiTs) surveyed in the 2019 Hospital Health Check (HHC) shared at least some of my experience.

Being involved with the HHC was certainly an enlightening experience for me, so I’d like to share some of what I learned.

Unsurprisingly, any doctor witnessing or experiencing bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace was prone to high burnout, especially if avenues to reporting were unknown or they feared the consequences of reporting.

Doctors who could not access leave at all, again unsurprisingly, correlated with having high burnout. Witnessed something horrific and not had access to any form of debriefing? That too was associated with high burnout. And last, but certainly not least, high burnout was associated with not being paid for hours worked.

What do all of these have in common?

I suspect that in most cases of DiTs experiencing high burnout, it is a sad reflection of the system and calls for empathetic leadership so these crises may be averted in the first place or at least, effectively resolved.

This is where the HHC comes into play. When 750 DiTs were able to anonymously share the issues affecting them at work, we could better understand what distressed them most.

I mentioned earlier that burnout was associated with unpaid overtime but interestingly, not with working overtime. We are a hard-working, motivated group of people but when that goes underappreciated for too long, when we feel dispensable but in reality are desperately needed by an understaffed health service, when our efficiency is blamed as the cause of undue overtime, all of this begins to take a toll.

The first half of each year is usually devoted to developing, disseminating and evaluating the HHC survey, which we hope helps some of you with the difficult decision of which healthcare system to choose. The remainder of the year sees us taking everything you tell us as a group and presenting it to hospital executives across Perth. They meet with us not just because we are being backed by the AMA (WA) but because we are supported by the voices of their doctors and employees.

Engagement does vary between hospital executives, but those who have listened and taken action have seen dramatic improvements in hospital morale and culture.

Although COVID-19 has somewhat interfered with our plans this year, the 2020 Hospital Health Check is opening soon, so please share your views and concerns with us again. This is a survey run by DiTs, for DiTs and ultimately, we all want the same outcomes – healthy work environments in which to develop the rewarding careers we have chosen.

 

Hospital Health Check 2020 is launching next Tuesday 1 September!