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AMA (WA) | Optimism

Operation Optimism

Thursday December 24, 2020

Dr Jemma Hogan Co-Chair, AMA (WA) Doctors in Training Committee

As we come to the end of 2020, we reflect on what can only be described as a tumultuous year for doctors across the globe – united in the cause of fighting COVID-19. This year, Australian doctors in training (DITs) have experienced unprecedented changes to their training, examination schedules, ability to take leave and educational opportunities, living in an almost constant state of uncertainty.

While some of these experiences have been immensely challenging for all involved, this column will attempt to focus on some of the positives 2020 has demonstrated.

Greater access to educational opportunities

With the pandemic forcing most educational activities to go online, DiTs can no longer gather in large numbers at lecture theatres to attend Grand Rounds or specialty teaching. As a result, many hospitals and health networks have adopted teleconferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, which have allowed more people to participate from home. This has been particularly useful for those with carer responsibilities, others who live far from their workplaces or those on perpetual shift work who’d often struggle to attend face-to-face sessions.

Take Perth Children’s Hospital for example, where educational sessions are now often live streamed, recorded and uploaded on to a central website. This not only allows DiTs to attend remotely but also to revisit the content later, enabling revision of important concepts.

Health organisations can be more flexible and responsive

The responsiveness and agility of organisations are other useful outcomes from COVID-19. We have learnt that when changes are required, and goals have to be achieved in real time, bureaucracy and red tape can be eliminated. While it is important to have sufficient checks in place, COVID-19 has forced health workplaces and governments to move at a far more rapid pace, to accept and facilitate change.

Case in point – fast-tracking the availability of telehealth services across Australia, which made it more convenient for patients, minimised unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities and has provided more options for ongoing care.

The opportunity to slow down and be mindful

At this time of the year, many junior doctors would be racing to complete an audit, research project or potentially using professional development leave to travel interstate/overseas to present findings at a conference. While many DiTs’ travel and/or professional development plans have been sidelined this year, I believe we have been given the opportunity to explore and appreciate places closer to home, focusing on our own health and wellbeing and reflecting on our roles in the healthcare system.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the commitment and hard work that junior doctors are investing in the WA health system, throughout Australia and on a global level. Your contributions are highly valued by those around you and will be appreciated by the public for many years to come.