Background

Royal Perth Bentley Group (RPBG) incorporates Bentley Hospital and Perth’s oldest teaching hospital, Royal Perth Hospital. With a combined 649 beds, RPBG is renowned for providing excellent patient care and for its contribution to medical research.

In August 2015, the RPBG conducted a review and risk assessment of the wellbeing of Junior Medical Officers (JMOs) including interns, resident medical officers and service registrars. With support from Converge International, the review identified a need for greater access to personal and independent one-on-one support for JMOs.

These findings, combined with feedback from the Doctor’s Health Advisory Service of Western Australia and the Australian Medical Association’s Western Australian Hospital Health Check survey, helped support the development of RPBG’s Doctors’ Wellbeing Program.

Focus

The Doctors’ Wellbeing Program offers:

  • fortnightly peer group sessions on a voluntary basis
  • one-on-one mentoring and coffee catch ups to discuss personal or work-related issues
  • access to mental health and wellbeing activities
  • promotion of awareness initiatives including Mental Health Week, RU OK? Day and Safety September.

The program is spearheaded by the Doctors’ Wellbeing Officer, a position that works closely with the Post Graduate Medical Education team to advocate for the mental health and wellbeing needs of JMOs. The position receives afterhours support from Pastoral Care chaplains who are experienced in managing acute distress.

 
Senior medical professional having a coffee with an intern

Outcomes

  • intern program participation increased from 30 to 90 percent over three years
  • doctors at all levels are using the program, choosing to consult the Wellbeing officer first for support on personal and work-related issues
  • a commendation for quality improvement at the 2018 Australian Council of Health Standards Awards

Challenges

  • resourcing the program — executive support was required to obtain funding for the Wellbeing Officer position
  • engaging interns who are already time poor, stressed and overworked
    — promotion of the program during intern induction week improved engagement
  • managing the workload of the Wellbeing officer as the program expanded
    — other services across the hospital were engaged for support.
Interns at camp watching the sunset
 

The Doctors’ Wellbeing Program has since expanded to include nursing staff and has been identified as a deciding factor for medical graduates wanting to train at the hospital. RPBG continue to look at ways to improve the program by consulting industry organisations. Overall, staff engagement has proven fundamental to the program’s success — staff become advocates for the program, and their individual experiences define and support the program’s direction.