Medical training survey results highlight positives and stresses for trainees

13 Feb 2020

Australia’s first-ever national medical training survey (MTS) – conducted by the Medical Board of Australia – has revealed that most trainees, including in general practice, rate their training very highly, but many are still unacceptably experiencing excessive hours, heavy workload, bullying, harassment, or discrimination.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, has said that the AMA supported the survey and welcomes the results, but the whole medical profession and training stakeholders must work together to ensure that they address the negatives to make the medical training journey a safer and more rewarding experience for the future medical workforce.

“The AMA has lobbied for the MTS for many years to measure the performance of our system of medical training and identify key areas for improvement, and this advocacy has been justified,” Dr Bartone said.

“The survey, which focused on doctors undertaking pre-vocational and vocational training, revealed that most trainees rated the quality of their training and clinical supervision very highly, and would also recommend their current training post.”

The MTS produced many positives, but Dr Bartone said it also put the spotlight on areas that will require further attention from educational bodies, employers, and other stakeholders, including the AMA.

“Safe working hours are still an issue for the profession, with one in eight trainees working at least 60 hours on average per week,” Dr Bartone said.

“This is particularly worrying given the clear recent Australian research showing that doctors in training who work more than 55 hours each week have double the risk of developing mental health problems and suicidal ideation.”

The survey highlighted that half of trainees considered their workload ‘heavy’ or ‘very heavy’, and that only half of trainees were consistently being paid for un-rostered overtime. One in five doctors in training also felt they had personally experienced bullying, harassment, and/or discrimination in their workplace in the last 12 months.

Dr Bartone emphasised that half of the doctors in training surveyed reported they are concerned about their future career, which reflects ongoing concerns about a known shortfall in vocational places and the lack of employment opportunities once College Fellowship is obtained in some specialty areas.

“To address this, the AMA urged the development of a National Medical Workforce Strategy to better coordinate the medical training pipeline, and ensure that the medical workforce meets future community need,” Dr Bartone said.

“Work on this strategy is now underway, with the AMA being involved in the consultation process at all levels.”

The AMA will use the MTS data to seek necessary and meaningful change for trainees in the workplace and with their training bodies.

Read the full media release here.