Medical Training Survey reveals many positives for trainees but major stresses must be addressed

10 Feb 2020

Australia’s first-ever national medical training survey (MTS) has revealed that most trainees rate their training very highly, but many are still unacceptably experiencing excessive hours, heavy workload, bullying, harassment, or discrimination.

The survey was conducted by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA).

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today 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.

“Trainees deserve and should expect such a workplace – nothing less,” Dr Bartone said.

“The MTS has, overall, reinforced the quality and reputation of Australia’s world class system of medical education.

“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.

“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.

“Nearly all of them intend to continue with their training program.

“The quality of health care in Australia is, in large measure, driven by the commitment and skills of its medical workforce and this survey shows that Australian patients will be well served into the future by a highly skilled workforce.”

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 shows the pressure that trainees continue to work under, with half of all trainees who completed the survey considering their workload ‘heavy’ or ‘very heavy’.

“Many trainees also continue to work extra hours, with only half receiving payment for un-rostered overtime ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’.

“One in five doctors in training (22 per cent) felt they had personally experienced bullying, harassment, and/or discrimination in their workplace in the last 12 months.

“This is an area that needs a continued focus to stamp out unacceptable behaviours in the workplace.

“Also of concern is that half of the doctors in training surveyed reported they are concerned about their future career.

“This 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.

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

The MBA has committed to conducting the MTS on an annual basis, and the AMA is confident that trainees will continue to support this survey.

Critical to its success will be efforts by key stakeholders to address the legitimate concerns raised by trainees in the MTS.

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

10 February 2020

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