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Why we wrote ‘Every Doctor: healthier doctors=healthier patients’

Posted on: July 6, 2023

Clinical Professor Leanne Rowe AM is a rural doctor, co-author of ‘Every Doctor: healthier doctors=healthier patients’ and past Chairman of the RACGP and Deputy Chancellor of Monash University.

My co-authors, Professor Michael Kidd, Dr Vihangi Abeygunawardana and I wrote the fully revised 2nd edition of Every Doctor because we believe that healthier doctors provide the highest standard of patient care – and find more joy in life and work.

Medicine is a fantastic career. It can be a privilege to witness the courage of our patients, gain extraordinary insight into ordinary life, and develop bonds with colleagues who become lifelong friends across state and international borders.

But we must also address the downside – doctors are continuing to confront the growing burden of non-COVID-19 conditions and health inequities in our aging population as we begin to emerge from the pandemic as well as the chronic underfunding of our practices. These challenges are impacting on the mental and physical health of every community – and every doctor. In these situations, generic self help strategies are inadequate.

In Every Doctor, we are advocating for a transformational change in the way doctors protect their mental health and their relationships with family and friends; connect with and care for their colleagues, and co-create a kinder, more humane work cultures. Every doctor has the right to a safe workplace – a healthy work environment that protects doctors against burnout and mental injury, bullying, harassment, discrimination, racism, medicolegal issues and verbal and physical assaults. It is every doctor’s responsibility to work with colleagues to effect this change.

Whether we recognise it or not, every doctor is a leader every day. We all have more influence than we realise to reform the health system and our workplaces through co-leadership in our practices and as members of our medical organisations. The healthcare activism of our many medical organisations must continue with strong and united advocacy on a wide range of issues that impact on patient care and general practice. If we change the environment in which we work, we can all thrive.

It’s also time for senior doctors to step up and provide more support to early career doctors particularly doctor Registrars and New Fellows. Young doctors at the front line of health care should not have to learn about navigating career challenges “the hard way” through bitter experience. In recent times, the pandemic and other public health crises have resulted in loss of career progression, loss of certainty about the future, traumatic losses of patients, family members, friends and colleagues. In this environment, workplace mental injury including direct and vicarious trauma in doctors is under reported, under recognised and under treated. We can do so much more to care for our colleagues in these circumstances, including promoting the importance of having an independent treating doctor and access to early evidence based treatment for mental health problems.

Every Doctor confronts all these challenges and provides practical solutions based on the wisdom of experienced doctors and the medical literature. Brimming with poignant and hopeful stories and quotes from many doctors at all career stages, Every Doctor is a celebration of the changing face of our profession.

Please consider gifting the new edition to a new colleague – but please read it first!