AMA Trainee Forum 2014: DiTs focus on regional training, telehealth, accreditation and doctors’ wellbeing
The AMA Trainee Forum, held each March, is critical in shaping the advocacy agenda of the AMA’s Council of Doctors-in-Training (CDT).
It is the premier forum for CDT’s direct engagement with prevocational and vocational trainees from a wide range of specialties on national issues important to DiTs.
This year’s Trainee Forum set out to push the boundaries of AMA policy, with discussion of innovative models for enhancing the capacity, distribution and delivery of medical training.
Fittingly, the session dedicated to use of telehealth for teaching and training was conducted via videoconference, with panellists dialling in to Melbourne from as far as Cairns, Mount Isa and rural Tasmania — and not without its routine share of technical challenges.
Forum attendees discussed the value of opportunities via telehealth to expand the access of trainees in remote areas to clinical encounters with specialists based in major centres, provide innovative educational experiences for trainees and improve the standard of medical care able to be delivered by trainees in rural and remote sites.
The Forum also heard from a panel with significant experience in establishing and managing regional training networks — networks of health services delivering high-quality generalist and specialist training, allowing trainees to be based in regions where training in single-site settings may not be viable.
While it’s clear that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be appropriate, further development of regional networks and hubs shows significant promise for improvement in regional training and the distribution of the medical workforce.
The Trainee Forum discussed and agreed upon valuable outcomes regarding both of these innovative models of delivery of medical training, which have already influenced the formation of new AMA policy in the short time since.
Given the primary reason for the forum’s existence is to allow for discussion on important issues for everyday DiTs, the ‘trainee soapbox’ is always a valuable and entertaining session.
This year, DiTs passionately affirmed their support for their junior and senior colleagues in Queensland, calling for resolution of the Senior Medical Officer contracts dispute amid threatened mass resignations of trainees’ supervisors. Thankfully, in recent weeks there have been significant concessions from the Queensland Government, and the negotiation of a revised agreement has largely defused tensions.
The soapbox session also saw discussion of the results of the AMA’s recent survey into trainee working hours.
The survey was commissioned to investigate concerns that quality of training for procedural specialties is being threatened by the imposition of rosters with strictly-limited working hours.
While the survey results demonstrate that the average procedural trainee continues to work approximately 60 hours per week, generally consistent with trainees’ expectations and recommendations from training bodies, it is clear that protecting the quality of vocational training must continue to be a significant focus for CDT.
The Forum also gives the CDT an opportunity to seek trainee feedback on significant upcoming issues on which AMA advocacy is planned.
In light of the Australian Medical Council’s impending review of the accreditation standards for specialist medical education, the forum discussed the current standards and areas on which advocacy should focus.
Similarly, valuable insights were gained from presenters and attendees during the final session regarding doctor mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.
With the AMA-beyondblue Mental Health Roundtable coming up on 6 June in Melbourne, the discussions made it clear that trainees are ready to build upon work already completed, and to determine a solid plan for addressing the health of the profession.
Many thanks to all Trainee Forum presenters and attendees for their participation, and to AMA Victoria for hosting the event at AMA House, Parkville.
Dr James Churchill
Chair, AMA Council of Doctors-in-Training