HOSPITALS with a bureaucratic focus on outcomes put staff at an increased risk of psychological distress.
Sunshine Coast mental health expert Margaret McAllister said medical professionals needed support networks, not evaluations, to thrive in high pressure roles.
The Central Queensland University Professor of Nursing said many modern hospitals needed an injection of “humanisation”.
“Hospitals need to be places of kindness and compassion, where staff are valued,” she said.
A mental health expert believes hospitals need to be places of compassion for not just patients, but doctors too. INM
Her comments come as ABC’s Four Corners last night broadcast its investigations into the pressure Australian doctors face in the workplace.
The investigation follows reports of improper working conditions, sexual harassment and bullying within the health system. In 2013, beyondblue conducted a world-first survey of doctors’ and medical students’ mental health.
The results discovered that they experience much higher rates of suicidal thoughts and psychological distress than the general community.
Jeff Kennett, beyondblue depression initiative chairman, said more needed to be done to address workplace stress.
“The time has come for Australia to realise this is a serious problem and to have the medical colleges, hospitals and governments come together to fix this situation as a matter of national urgency,” he said.
Prof McAllister said the next generation of medical professionals needed to be better prepared for the intensity of critical care roles.
“Students need to be screened for resilience and taught self-care,” she said.
“They need to feel safe to talk in difficult situations and know to take time out.”
University of Queensland PhD student Liz Crowe is researching this topic and agrees with the grassroots approach to preparing young medical minds.
Ms Crowe, whose supervisor is University of the Sunshine Coast Professor of Nursing Jeanine Young, said medical officials need to recruit well, orientate well and have support systems in the workplace.
“The Army and emergency services offer support after exposure to a bad event,” she said.
“Quite often in hospitals, staff are left to keep going.”
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kevin Hegarty said the staff at his hospitals were the most valuable asset.
“We are determined to maintain and enhance the quality of the work environment,” he said.
“Employees can anonymously provide feedback on any issues within their workplace as well as suggestions for further improvements.”
Mr Hegarty said from the orientation program to all aspects of operations, management emphasised the need for appropriate interaction between staff.
“There is a zero tolerance of bullying of any description, as well as a zero tolerance of aggression towards staff from the public.”
Mr Hegarty said the health service complied with all fatigue and shift length-related provisions of the varied state employment awards and contracts for clinical staff.
Maximum rostered shift lengths did not exceed 12.5 hours and breaks between shifts must be a minimum of 10 hours for doctors.
“It is standard practice that the commencement of the next shift is delayed if the 10-hour rule for doctors was breached.
“The maximum hours worked weekly is restricted to 40 hours in most instances.”