Medicine men pursue work-life balance

At the start of this year Dr Katherine Willis-Sullivan (DMS of the Lismore Base Hospital), and Dr Sue Veloski (local General Surgeon) advised me that a ‘Women in Medicine Night’ was being organized, and suggested it might be good to have a similar event for men.

Our task as clinicians, male and female, is demanding, both intellectually and emotionally, and at times physically. We must pass through numerous training barriers and overcome examination hurdles, all while seeking to provide excellent care to our patients.

Hopefully somewhere along the way we also look after ourselves. While the concept of ‘Clinician Wellbeing’ may not be new, recent reviews into the culture of medicine have brought this into stark relief. A further example was provided recently with the RACP Primary examinations, and the immense distress and disruption this debacle caused to candidates sitting exams.

On 31 January having teamed up with my fellow colleague Dr Marissa Barker, we held the first combined Women and Men in Medicine event. This event also served as a welcome for the new 12 rural preferential recruits (RPRs) to Lismore Base Hospital who will be completing their internship and residency in Lismore over the next two years.

An expert panel was assembled, comprising several newly minted consultants including Dr Joe Churton (Respiratory), Dr Rick Lane (Emergency), and Dr Joe Gormally (Oncology), and senior registrars Dr Cam Hollows (GP) and Dr Shane Clark (Orthopaedics). A series of questions was put to the panel: How do you deal with a bad day at work? What makes you want to turn up for work each day? Why Lismore? How do you survive our training? How do you stay sane?

Several themes emerged. Firstly, that Lismore and surrounds is a great place to work; due to the collaboration and support between colleagues and ongoing interest from the wide and varied pathology encountered.

Secondly, having pursuits outside of medicine is key to staying sane. Whether this be through family, sports or artistic pursuits, or other activities/interests, this is an essential part of clinician wellbeing.

Thirdly, having colleagues to debrief with, whether they are local or accessible via phone, is essential to ensuring clinician sanity after encountering tricky patients or unexpected outcomes. .

The second half of the evening was a combined meal with our Women in Medicine colleagues. Throughout dinner several of the ‘old guard’ shared a brief synopsis of their careers: Dr Paul Laird (Respiratory), Dr Andrew Binns (GP), Dr John Graham (Vascular Surgeon) and Dr Jane Barker (Paediatrics & GP). This provided a great bookend for the night, hearing career excerpts from senior doctors, each with 30+ years experience in wide and varied roles working around the globe, and each deciding that Lismore was where they wanted to settle.

This event provided a great networking opportunity, excellent career advice and readily applicable tips for clinician wellbeing. I look forward to seeing you at the next event.

Dr David Glendinning
GP Registrar, Lismore