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J U N E 2 0 1 7

Lights, camera, action:

Dr Andrew Miller faces a media scrum.

P R E S I D E N T ' S D E S K


t the AMA’s recent

National Conference, the

President of the Australian

Medical Students Association

(AMSA) delivered a moving speech,

challenging senior doctors to set

good examples in terms of work-life

balance in the interests of better

mental health for young doctors and

medical students.

In particular, he questioned the

idealisation of ‘absolute dedication’

to the profession and to our patients,

and posed the prospect that we are

setting up young doctors to fail by the

examples that we set.

Is Medicine ‘ just a job’? And yet it is

this dedication that separates us from

many other professions and underpins

our whole model of vocational

training. Dedication can mean

different things to different people

and I’m not yet ready to toss it out in

order to improve my wellbeing (and

my golf handicap). Dedication to the

profession and work-life balance are

not mutually exclusive, although many

of us do need to improve that balance.

Workplace stress is recognised as a

risk factor for mental health problems

but I think such stress is much more

than how busy or long a shift is or how

large the pile of paperwork.

Hospital jobs for trainees and junior

doctors have changed enormously

over the last few years with lower

overall hours, shorter shifts, reduced

inpatient load per doctor, better

supervision and better technology.

There have been other changes too

and perhaps it is these that have had

a greater impact on the mental health

of young doctors. Job security, once

virtually guaranteed in the public

hospital sector, can no longer be

taken for granted. Training pathways

have become more competitive, with

tougher requirements as colleges try

to rank large numbers of excellent

applicants. Targets have led to

increased pressure to move patients

quickly through the system, even

if they are not quite ready or there

are more urgent clinical demands.

The position of the doctor in the

healthcare team has changed too and

many doctors no longer feel valued

and respected by their employer or

other staff members.

In my experience, the antidote to

any tough day at work (other than a

glass of wine) is the knowledge that

I have done my best for my patients

and the great pride I feel to be a

member of our profession. It helps

make tolerable what would otherwise

be intolerable conditions and has

helped me navigate the long road of

medical training. How else can you

justify the extraordinary effort of most

doctors as they prepare for fellowship

examinations whilst also holding down

full-time jobs?

We have a unique profession that

has flourished on a foundation

of rich traditions, a sound ethical

framework, scientific principles, care

and compassion, commitment and

hard work. It can be uncompromising

but the good outweighs the bad by a

healthy margin.

The unique nature of the medical

profession means we are trusted by

our patients to look after them at the

most vulnerable time in their lives,

and we have traditionally enjoyed very

high levels of respect within hospitals

and the community in general.

That respect is sometimes hard

to see in a modern public hospital

where there is a lack of trust between

management and the doctors, where

doctors are often not trusted to make

ethical or sound decisions at anything

other than a patient level and where

doctors are required to regularly

complete superfluous mandatory

‘training’, regardless of need and

previous knowledge or training. It

has been shown that better medical

engagement leads to better quality

healthcare yet clinician engagement

remains one of the major challenges

for our system currently.

I hope that in my time as AMA (WA)

President, I can uphold and protect

the standing of the medical

profession in our State, engaging with

No apologies,

I'm a dedicated doctor

Dr Omar Khorshid

AMA (WA) President

Continued on page 3

I hope that in my

time as AMA (WA)

President, I can

uphold and protect the

standing of the medical

profession in our State