What would make you see a doctor?
There has recently been a more dedicated conversation to help doctors find better ways of improving their whole-body health.
Instead of relying on self-diagnosis and ‘corridor consultations’, doctors are being urged to find a GP and proactively maintain their own mental and physical health.
Improving doctors’ health is not a new topic; dedicated doctors have been working on this issue for decades.
According to Dr Margaret Kay, medical director Queensland Doctors’ Health Service, there have been conferences in Australasia around the topic since 1999.
However recently, more people have been speaking out over the importance of doctors’ health.
“We’re seeing is quite a significant voice from the council of doctors in training and doctors at the junior doctor/registrar level,” Dr Kay noted.
Significantly, there have been some senior medical voices speaking out.
It is this voice of experience that is vital for changing the culture, particularly for junior doctors.
According to Dr Kay, when a junior doctor or registrar is sick, the senior doctors should give them permission to take care of themselves and see a doctor.
“Your consultant should be putting his or her hand on your shoulder and saying ‘I really get how you feel and I think you need to go home to bed. I’m not going to penalise you for being sick’,” she explained.
She said ‘eye-rolling’ when someone isn’t feeling well needs to stop.
“We need to be aware of it and have a conversation with each other. Senior people need to support each other in enabling that.”
Dr Kay said often doctors who call up the Queensland Doctors’ Health Programme phone line are looking for permission to see a doctor.
According to one of Dr Kay’s studies, Developing a framework for understanding doctors’ health access, published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health in 2011, finding the right time to see a GP is one of the barriers for doctors.
One respondent said: “You tend to trivialise your complaints and it might be just that once that you’re too busy to go and you miss the boat completely and you get yourself into serious trouble.”
However Dr Kay said the ideal time to see a GP is not for something serious, but for a check-up or immunisations, so there is an opportunity to build a rapport with the GP and talk about further health issues and preventions.
“There are so many conversations that a GP can enter into with a doctor once they’ve come in for a simple consultation.”
It’s also the training for doctors to learn the best way to treat other doctors that’s important. Websites such as Drs4drs.com.au, a newly launched website hosted on doctorportal, aims to provide a resource for doctors to maintain their own health and access to training programs for GPs wanting to help treat other doctors.
“GPs particularly be trained up, and should be engaged with their primary health network to let them know it’s the type of training they’re interested in,” Dr Kay advised.
To find more doctors’ health resources or be connected with your state advisory service, visit Drs4drs.com.au
- Make home visits part of GP training
- Making headway against low value services
- Vexed problem of improper complaints