A Wellbeing Charter for Doctors
The Wellbeing Charter for Doctors aims to define wellbeing and describe the principles that guide the wellbeing of doctors in Australia and New Zealand. The Charter also describes the shared responsibility of wellbeing for the medical profession. The Charter demonstrates a unified approach to doctors’ wellbeing so that we can advocate with one voice to institutions, governments and policy makers.
Wellbeing encompasses physical, mental, emotional and cultural health. It also includes the cultivation of healthy relationships at personal and professional levels based on appreciation, kindness, gratitude and compassion. At a professional level, these attributes are reflected in interactions with patients and the teams we work with and are at the heart of the competencies required for good medical practice.
- Maintaining wellbeing leads to the performance of high quality and effective health care delivery and optimises patient care.
- Doctors who maintain and maximise their health and wellbeing are able to manage the physical and emotional demands of medicine.
- Wellbeing is essential to achieving the competencies required for good medical practice.
- Wellbeing is beneficial to the individual and to the medical community in which doctors work.
- Jurisdictions, hospitals and medical colleges must support the wellbeing of doctors and provide an environment that is safe, accessible and inclusive for all.
Responsibility for Wellbeing
Almost all medical practitioners will face health and wellbeing challenges at different points in our career. Doctors’ wellbeing is a priority for doctors, the patients that we serve and the teams that we work with. It is therefore a shared responsibility between individuals and system partners: workplaces, medical colleges, medical schools, regulators and quality improvement bodies.
- Practice self-care and continually evaluate what works best to thrive. This includes basics needs – adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, hydration, regular breaks/ leave, setting boundaries and engaging in enriching activities that bring joy and purpose: e.g., learning, giving, hobbies, spiritual practice, mindfulness and social connection.
- Have a General Practitioner and have regular check-ups.
- Foster a personal network of support that may include colleagues, family and friends to share with in good and difficult times.
- Are aware of and access professional support services that provide doctors with advice, a safe space to share concerns and assist with acute issues.
- Acknowledge the benefits of kindness and compassion towards self, colleagues and patients.
- Show compassion and encourage colleagues to seek help in difficult times.
- Prepare in advance for the changes that punctuate a career in medicine.
- Are aware that we are a role model to colleagues and the community.
- Are aware of and sensitive to the needs of colleagues’ lives – professional and non-professional
- Are prepared to support each other in times of need.
Managers and Leaders
- Have an obligation to foster wellbeing.
- Proactively discuss wellbeing at departmental or team meetings.
- Ensure that there is a safe and supportive environment to confidentially discuss concerns with colleagues.
- Have fluent processes to support and assist colleagues.
Hospitals and Jurisdictions
- Have a role to support a work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible for all, including those with disabilities and chronic illness.
- Have an obligation to provide a safe and healthy working environment including cover for sick leave, reasonable working hours and flexible work options.
- Support doctors’ wellbeing by creating a culture of care and compassion.
- Have doctors’ wellbeing at the core of healthcare strategy and leadership accountability, enabling compassionate leaders, measuring staff wellbeing regularly and confidentially, identifying and acting on risks including organisational factors, team factors and job design.
- Provide practical and emotional support to teams and individuals.
- Offer and promote targeted initiatives to enhance protective factors that affect overall wellbeing.
- Provide doctors in training and specialist doctors with the knowledge and skills to support, encourage and sustain a safe working environment for all doctors through specialist training programs and continuing professional development.
- Have an important role to advance doctors’ wellbeing through advocacy, research, education, policy, support and evidenced based initiatives.
- Have wellbeing initiatives that are aligned and that actively support doctors throughout their careers.
About Ruth Bollard
Ruth graduated from Liverpool University Medical School in 1988. Trained as a General Surgeon in the UK, she continues to publish and has a M.Sc from Hull University. She qualified as a General Surgical Specialist in 2000 and moved to work in Ballarat in 2006, appointed as a Specialist General Surgeon.
With more than 30 years of experience in general surgery and more than 15 years of experience in the field of oncoplastic breast surgery, Ruth has had the fortune to be in lead roles within health and is passionate about striving for best quality of care for regional and rural patients.
Ruth is a Graduate of Australian Instittue of Company Directors; was Director of Surgery at Ballarat Health Services 2010-2012; a Clinical Director for Grampians Integrated Cancer Services 2012-2016; from 2011-2017 a member of Executive Women in Surgery Section Committee RACS; and Chair of Women in Surgery from 2014-2017. Whilst Chair of Women in Surgery Section, she was instrumental in leading the Australasian College of Surgeons through its cultural behavioural crisis.
Re-elected in 2018 for a second term to the board of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, her portfolio includes Chair of RACS wellbeing working group, an intercollegiate group across medical colleges. She also chaired the 2020 RACS alcohol policy working group.
Ruth is passionate about striving for access to best quality of care, for all. She has an ongoing interest and insights into her own health and the wellbeing and health of all doctors.