We are all familiar with that age-old adage 'physician,
heal thyself'. As surgeons we are trained to put the best
interests of our patients first and rightly so as we serve the
public, but what about our own health?
It is vital that we promote a culture that recognises the
importance of looking after our health. This is why we launched the
'Do you have a GP?' campaign.
We recognise that Fellows, Trainees and International
Medical Graduates may face stressful situations on a daily basis.
Coping with the demands of a busy profession, maintaining skills
and knowledge, and balancing family and personal commitments can be
Surgeons, like the rest of society, can struggle with
depression, anxiety and poor mental health. The work environments
surgeons find themselves in may also contribute to high levels of
stress due to administrative processes, fear of litigation and
inappropriate behaviour such as bullying, discrimination and sexual
I know that as surgeons we are very busy people, but we
must never ignore our own health. To do so would be to put not only
ourselves, but our families and patients at risk. I encourage
each and every one of us to attend a GP practice on a regular
basis. This is important to maintaining and protecting our health,
whether it is about our physical or mental health.
There are many GPs who specialise in looking after other
health professionals. They are mindful of issues such as privacy
and are used to making it easier for other medical practitioners to
access healthcare services.
Let's make our own health a priority. Go and see a GP and
make that a regular part of your health regimen.
Facts and figures
One of the greatest barriers to seeing a GP, reaching out or
seeking support is the potential impact you think it may have on
your registration to practise. Now it's time to get your facts
Your appointment with your GP is completely confidential, as is
any subsequent appointment with a health professional or
Your condition will only be reported to the relevant regulator
in extreme circumstances where your GP believes your behaviour or
conduct may place your colleagues or the public at risk of
If the risk (the condition) is addressed and managed through
treatment with a GP or specialist, mandatory notification is not
required, and cannot be made where there is no risk to the
Find out more about mandatory reporting, AHPRA and state laws in relation to notification, and
the New Zealand's Health Practitioners Competence
Assurance Act 2003.
According to the RACS
2016 Surgical Workforce Census approximately one in four
Fellows reported that it has been more than two years since their
last general health check-up. Of these, 38 percent of Fellows aged
40-49, and 24 per cent of Fellows aged less than 40 years reporting
that they have not had a health check-up in the last two
Mental health and wellbeing
There has been a growing recognition of the significance
of mental health in the workplace and specifically within the
medical profession. A national survey of doctors and medical
students commissioned by beyondblue focused community attention on
mental health within the medical profession (beyondblue, 2013). One
of its salient findings was that surgeons reported substantially
higher rates of recent suicide ideation compared to both the
Australian population and other professions. Clinical medical
students, in particular, also reported comparatively high
The beyondblue study relating to the entire medical
profession and trainees in Australia reported that approximately
six per cent of all doctors and 3.6 per cent of surgeons had a
current diagnosis of depression. Current anxiety diagnosis was
reported by 3.7 per cent of all doctors and 2.1 per cent of
A study of New Zealand hospital doctors found that the
29.1 per cent of psychological distress among were comparable to
those of general practitioners in NZ, Australia, and the UK and
were significantly higher than the general NZ population (Clarke
and Singh, 2004).
According to the RACS Census (2014a) over 22 per cent of
Fellows reported high or extreme stress being attributed to
administrative regulation amongst other stressors. While there is
no comprehensive comparable study in New Zealand, there are
indications of similar levels of psychological distress amongst New
Zealand doctors (NZMA, 2013).
RACS recognises the issue of mental health and wellbeing within
the surgical profession and the need to provide surgeons with more
targeted support and resources.
RACS Support Program through Converge International
RACS partnered with Converge International, a specialist
in psychology, mental health and wellbeing. Converge
provides confidential support to Fellows, Trainees and
International Medical Graduates and their immediate family
members. This arrangement allows them to access up to four
sessions per year for counselling, coaching and support for
workplace, emotional and personal issues.
The RACS Support Program (RACSSP) is a free 24/7
professional and confidential counselling service for RACS Fellows,
Trainees and International Medical Graduates. It is an initiative
of RACS to provide you and your Fellow Surgeons, Trainees and IMGs
with access to confidential counselling, coaching and support for
workplace, emotional and personal issues.
The RACSSP also provides RACS members the opportunity to
confidentially discuss mental health and workplace bullying and
harassment, as well as any other areas of concern, and is also
available for family members needing support across personal and/
or lifestyle concerns.
You can speak with a Senior Converge International
Consultant face-to-face, over the telephone or via the
For more information download the RACS Support Program brochure (PDF 503KB)
Your counsellor/psychologist - Moira
Information on EAP Portal Access (PDF
Employee Assist (PDF
Mental Health Check-In (PDF 319KB)
EAP and Converge International Apps
Operating with Respect training
In line with the commitment of the
RACS Building Respect, Improving Patient Safety Action Plan, a
Operating With Respect course is delivered to
recognise the importance of resilience in maintaining respectful
interactions and how to respectfully deal with work day
'Do You Have a GP?' poster for your hospital (PDF
Doctors Health and wellbeing - AMA
Doctors Health Services Pty Ltd
nearest GP via the ADHN
Tasmanian Health Directory
Articles and news
BBC News 19 February 2019 - Cut Through the Noise: The Evolution of
Arora M, Diwan A, Harris I. Burnout
in orthopaedic surgeons: a review. ANZ Journal of
Benkhadra K, Adusumalli J, Rajjo T, Hagen P, Wang Z, Murad M. A survey of health care needs of physicians.
BMC Health Services Research. 2016;16(1).
Choong P. Burnout:
a leadership challenge. ANZ Journal of Surgery.
Fernando A, Consedine N, Hill A. Mindfulness for surgeons. ANZ Journal of
Gerada C. Clinical depression: surgeons and mental
illness. The Bulletin of the Royal College of Surgeons of
Kay M, Mitchell G, Del Mar C. Doctors do not adequately look after their own
physical health. Medical Journal of Australia.
Marmon L, Heiss K. Improving surgeon wellness: The second victim
syndrome and quality of care. Seminars in Pediatric Surgery.
Parry D, Oeppen R, Amin M, Brennan P. Could exercise improve mental health and cognitive
skills for surgeons and other healthcare professionals?.
British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
Riall T, Teiman J, Chang M, Cole
D, Leighn T, McClafferty H et al. Maintaining the Fire but Avoiding Burnout:
Implementation and Evaluation of a Resident Well-Being Program.
Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
Sammour T, Benson S,
Neuhaus S, Findlay B, Hill A. Burnout in Australasian Younger Fellows.
ANZ Journal of Surgery. 2009;79:A30-A30.
Sharp M, Burkart K. Trainee Wellness: Why It Matters, and How to
Promote It. Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
Waxman B. Caring and sharing: strategies for recognizing and
surviving burnout in surgeons.
ANZ Journal of Surgery. 2011;81(7-8):493-494.
Calendar of events
Mental Health Week - 5-11 October 2019
Health Day - October 10, 2019
Are You Ok? Day - September 12, 2019