There have been concerns raised across social media in recent times about wellbeing, stress and burnout of young doctors, surgical trainees and surgeons.

We know that effecting a cultural change takes time. We also know that what we started doing in 2015 with the Building Respect, Improving Patient Safety initiative is a long-term investment in improving workplaces and training environments for our Trainees, International Medical Graduates and Fellows.

At a broader level, we've seen a societal shift and a strong public stance against unacceptable behaviours and as surgeons, we need to demonstrate leadership and our continued commitment to change.

It is clear that more needs to be done to improve the workplace culture.  We call on all employers to be mindful of their responsibilities to their employees and to ensure that working conditions are safe for employees. We know that there is substantial evidence and research that demonstrates bad behaviours in the workplace have a negative impact on patient safety.

RACS and its specialty training boards work hard to ensure that only training positions in centres that maintain high standards of care, have adequate clinical exposure for training, and demonstrate a respectful culture of support for trainees and trainers within the context of a structured program of education, are approved.

While the RACS remit regarding addressing issues that affect surgical trainees is confined to the working places in which they are undertaking their training, we are also concerned about the overall working culture at the prevocational level. It is important to acknowledge that RACS is not the employer in either of these settings. However, RACS strongly supports the same accreditation standards being applied to the prevocational space as the accredited training space. We call on other colleges to support RACS in championing doctors who work in unaccredited registrar positions to have a safe working environment.

Lastly, I would remind my fellow surgeons that as Fellows of RACS we abide by a Code of Conduct, which specifically states that it is our responsibility to ensure Trainees and IMGs are safe in the workplace. The Code of Conduct also requires us to address issues that may impact on a Trainee's or IMG's physical, psychological and emotional health.

Improving the workplace culture will improve patient safety and outcomes, but this will not happen overnight or through a single action. RACS is absolutely dedicated to building respect in surgical practice and implementing system-wide changes that support cultural change within the workforce.

I urge anyone who needs assist to contact Converge International who provide confidential support to surgeons and their immediate family members. This can be for any personal or work-related matter. Call on 1300 687 327 in Australia or 0800 666 367 in New Zealand or email [email protected]


Kind regards
John Batten