To say that medical practitioners work in a pressured environment is, perhaps, an understatement.  But with the arrival of COVID-19 this has certainly been taken to the next level – with changes to practice and patient management, constantly evolving information, guidelines and advice.  Throw on top of that all the usual personal issues – concerns for self and family around the disease, distanced relationships, interrupted employment and lockdowns.  It is little wonder doctors may be feeling anxious and burnt out.

You may be nodding your head right now, but how evident is this to your colleagues?

A doctor’s training tends to impart a philosophy encompassing:

  • The patient comes first
  • I need to be a superhero – remain in control and do not show emotion
  • Don’t complain, just get down and get on with it.

Is it reasonable or realistic to always put yourself last?  And how do you give/receive help when there is a façade that all is ‘OK’ and you have everything under control?

The World Medical Association (WMA) has certainly come out in favour of doctors prioritising their own health.

As the contemporary successor to the 2500-year-old Hippocratic Oath, the Declaration of Geneva, which was adopted by the WMA at its second General Assembly in 1948, outlines in concise terms the professional duties of physicians and affirms the ethical principles of the global medical profession.  Having undergone only minimal amendment in the nearly 70 years since its adoption, in 2017 the Declaration of Geneva was amended to address a number of key ethical parameters relating to the patient physician relationship, medical confidentiality, respect for teachers and colleagues, and importantly practitioner health and well-being.

As part of the re-evaluation of how the professional obligations of physicians are represented in the Declaration of Geneva, the international workgroup considered increasing workload, occupational stress, and the potential adverse effects these factors can have on physicians, their health, and their ability to provide care of the highest standard.  In light of feedback received in the survey of WMA members, along with the recommendations outlined in the recently adopted WMA Statement on Physician Well-Being, workgroup members incorporated the concept of physician well-being into the revised Declaration as follows: “I WILL ATTEND TO my own health, wellbeing, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.”  This clause reflects not only the humanity of physicians, but also the role physician self-care can play in improving patient care.

With you and your patients in mind, it is important to be conscious of, and proactive in managing your own health, be that your physical or mental health.  See the ‘Tips for self care’ box below –  seemingly small changes can have a big impact.  For more information and resources visit www.miga.com.au/education/doctors-health.

You could also attend MIGA’s doctors’ health webinar “Putting my health first – The paradigm shift” which will be held on Wednesday, 20 October 2021 at 7.00pm (AEDT) – book via REO or call the Risk Management team on 1800 777 156.

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