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Challenges and the promise of progress await DiTs in 2014


It’s an exciting time to be the incoming Chair of the AMA Council of Doctors-in-Training. I thank Will Milford and the secretariat for their work over the past 18 months, during which time many gains have been realised for doctors-in-training (DiTs) in each State and Territory.

The past three years have been a tumultuous period for DiTs, with significant medical workforce planning issuess due to the doubling in Australian-trained graduate numbers in the past decade, ongoing concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of medical students and junior doctors, and threatened assaults on the tax-deductibility of further medical education expenses.

In 2014 we enter a critical time for DiTs’ advocacy on the medical training pipeline.

The development of Health Workforce Australia’s Health Workforce 2025 reports has heralded prospects for significant progress in medical workforce planning, with the formation of the National Medical Training Advisory Network (NMTAN) an important step in translating the reports’ findings into recommendations and actions.

For this group to succeed requires the buy-in of a range of stakeholders in medical training, including the profession. CDT will be represented on the Executive Committee, and it is hoped NMTAN will prove effective in helping develop a sustainable and efficient medical training system.

Medical workforce planning is complicated by a divided system of state-federal-university responsibilities. Aside from known national data on medical graduates and internships, deciphering the availability and allocation of PGY2+ prevocational positions in each State and Territory has proven extraordinarily complicated, and will no doubt require further coordination in order to remain efficient.

This year promises significant progress on issues regarding the quality of medical training. The proposal for an annual National Training Survey, which has been under development for some time, is expected to continue to mature in 2014. Overseas experience of similar surveys is positive, and the NTS promises to be a valuable tool for evaluating and improving the quality of medical education.

Following finalisation of its excellent work on accreditation standards and outcomes for the intern year, and an associated framework for the review of Postgraduate Medical Councils, the Australian Medical Council will soon be turning its attention to consulting on revised Standards for Specialist Medical Education.

Discussion of the standards will form a significant part of the 2014 Trainee Forum, to be held in Melbourne in March. CDT will be providing detailed trainee feedback on the standards, drawing upon the results of the AMA Specialist Trainee Survey conducted in 2010, and due for release again in April 2014.

The recent release of the beyondblue report on the mental health of doctors and medical students has prompted renewed calls to combat the stigma of mental illness among our colleagues. Many of the report’s findings were concerning, particularly regarding the vulnerability of doctors during early postgraduate years. The problem is defined, the data known, and now is the time for action on doctors’ mental health and wellbeing.

Turning to global health issues, in 2014 the AMA has an opportunity to lead discussion of how to meet trainees’ popular demand for broadened implementation of best-practice, integrated global health training opportunities for DiTs.

Clearly, CDT has an interesting and full program of work ahead in 2014, and I’m personally looking forward to the challenge of these and other issues. Leading CDT with me will be Julian Grabek, Deputy Chair, alongside representatives from each State and Territory DiT committee.

James Churchill
Chair, Council of Doctors-in-Training | | @amacdt