Flashback Friday: A little stability goes a long way | AMA (WA)


Mother kissing child's forehead

Flashback Friday: A little stability goes a long way

Wednesday August 22, 2018

Dr Jason Laurens, Co-chair AMA (WA) Doctors in Training Committee

The stress of planning a family is real, especially for pre-vocational
DiTs who for the most part operate on 12-month contracts.

Thankfully, new interns are being offered three-year contracts, which allow them to plan a year or two in advance with regard to their family’s financial security.

While it is not the Department of Health’s responsibility to provide us a sense of security, more supportive work practices such as improved access to multi-year and six month contracts would help reduce a significant stressor when planning our medical careers around our families.

Multi-year contracts are a great way of improving a sense of security and are also likely to aid in DiT retention, which is an annual issue faced by many of our hospitals.

By providing multi-year contracts, DiTs would likely feel a sense of obligation towards their employing hospital and would therefore be more likely to see it out.


This allows for longer-term workforce planning whilst maintaining institutional knowledge, instead of looking for greener pastures at other hospitals or interstate.

Six-month contracts may seem counter intuitive after discussing multi-year contracts, but I mention them because we do hear stories of DiTs who find themselves in a pickle. Do they apply for a 12-month contract knowing that they may not complete their contract postpartum and feel as though they are letting the hospital down? Or do they apply for a six-month contract and risk being prejudiced against because it’s easier for the hospital workforce to accommodate 12-month contracts?

Some DiTs also worry that a six-month contract will mean that they will be given low priority when it comes to term preferences, which may impact their ability to meet training program prerequisites.

In addition to discussing how we can better employ DiTs wishing to have families, we need to discuss their entitlements.

Fourteen weeks of paid parental leave is amazing, allowing parents to spend precious time with their newborn. But what about those who don’t meet the letter of the law with regard to contractual obligations? DiTs in training pathways such as Emergency Medicine and Psychiatry are required to move between both public and private hospitals in order to meet training requirements that cannot be met in a single hospital.

For a DiT who has worked multiple years in the public system to lose their parental entitlements because they move to a private employer for six or 12 months is unfair.

The current contract states that a doctor must work in the public sector for 12 months before parental leave entitlements are available, but why can’t previous time worked be factored in?

Long service and annual leave accumulated whilst working in the public system can be preserved when DiTs work briefly in the private system. Why can’t parental leave be included too?

As someone who is planning to start a family in the next year or two with a partner who is also a DiT, I really hope the improvements I’ve seen in workforce flexibility continue.

A growth in the number of staff employed on the right contract for their circumstances should enable more effective medical workforce planning.

This may reduce the burden on DiTs as hospitals go through swings of over and understaffing with resignations and international inflows.