2024 | Volume 25 | Issue 1

Author: Professor Mark Ashton
Chair, Fellowship Services Committee
As we settle into the new year, this is an opportune time to reflect and set goals for 2024. Taking care of ourselves and our colleagues is an important way to maintain wellbeing and I encourage Fellows, Trainees and Specialist International Medical Graduates (SIMGs) to make wellbeing a priority in 2024.

The Wellbeing Charter for Doctors describes wellbeing as encompassing physical, mental, emotional and cultural health. It also includes the cultivation of healthy relationships at personal and professional levels based on appreciation, kindness, gratitude and compassion.

Compassion is one of the College’s core values. Being compassionate to ourselves and to those around us is essential to our wellbeing. The concept of self-care and the actions we take to sustain or improve our wellbeing will be different for everyone. What does self-care mean to you? It could be spending more time with loved ones, prioritising rest, practicing mindfulness or taking regular holidays. In work settings we demonstrate compassion in everyday interactions. Listening with intent to others, showing empathy and being willing to support each other creates connectiveness. Research shows that this sense of connectiveness can be a powerful protective factor to the stressors we face as surgeons.

There are a range of resources and support services available to help you and your team make wellbeing a priority.

RACS Support Program
The RACS Support Program delivered by Converge International provides confidential counselling and support to all Fellows, Trainees, SIMGs, global health volunteers, and our immediate families. You can access up to four free sessions a year with counsellors experienced in supporting medical practitioners for any personal or professional concerns. Sessions are available online, in person, or over the telephone.

Surgeon wellbeing online learning
Launched in 2023, the Surgeon Wellbeing eLearning Module is a great introduction to surgeon wellbeing. The module covers challenges for surgeons, the shared responsibility for wellbeing, key resources and support options. 5 to Thrive is also available. This short microlearning activity encourages us to consider how the hours we work can impact our overall wellbeing. Both activities are open to Fellows, Trainees and SIMGs, and eligible for RACS Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program points.

Do you have a GP?
We encourage all surgeons to regularly visit a trusted GP. By allowing another doctor to objectively manage your health, you will be free to do what you do best—managing the health of your own patients. Results from the 2022 RACS Surgical Workforce Census show that almost three quarters of Fellows monitored their health in the two years prior by visiting a medical doctor for a health check-up or attending at regular intervals. Visit the Do You Have a GP? resources.

Surgeon to surgeon support
Members are welcome to seek advice or support from the RACS Executive Director of Surgical Affairs (Australia) and Surgical Advisor (Aotearoa New Zealand). View further details. The RACS Trainees Association (RACSTA) is also available for any concerns, with representatives from all states, territories, and Aotearoa New Zealand available to assist.

Confidential support outside RACS is also available through the Doctors’ Health Alliance, Drs4Drs, Lifeline (Australia), Lifeline (Aotearoa New Zealand) and Beyond Blue.

Wellbeing is a priority for RACS and we are committed to promoting a culture that recognises the importance of looking after our health. Please join me and make wellbeing a priority for 2024.

Visit the Surgeon Wellbeing webpage for more information and to read about the RACS Wellbeing Action Plan.