Dr Kate Engelke is a junior doctor currently working at the Townsville Hospital in North Queensland. She graduated Bsc/MBBS from the University of Queensland in 2015. Kate has been involved in promoting the health and wellbeing of doctors and medical students since medical school, serving on the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service (QLD) Management Committee and more recently on the Board of the Queensland Doctors’ Health Programme (QDHP). She has an interest in how we can improve the health of doctors throughout their working lives and how this can also lead to better health outcomes for patients.
Clinician wellness as we strive for quality care
Sunday 2 September | View program for more details
Current international literature reminds us that the health of the health professional is a key quality indicator for the delivery of quality health care. Improving the work life of health care providers is one of four quadruple aims of care considered to optimise health system performance.1 The other three aims are: improving the health of the population, enhancing the patient experience of care, and reducing health care costs. Issues relating to care of the health professional, especially doctors, have been well documented. The literature highlights that doctors who work at the coalface, including primary health care, are at highest risk of burnout. It is likely that this equally true for all primary health care providers. The solutions to enhancing clinician wellness remain difficult to articulate. It is a strong recommendation that all doctors have their own doctor, and therefore clinicians working within the primary health care sector need to be prepared to support their colleagues presenting for support of their physical, mental and preventive health care needs. This paper will begin with a scoping review of the literature on clinician wellness, focusing on primary care. This will provide an evidence-based foundation that will lead into a discussion about how doctors access their own health care, including an exploration of the barriers they experience. This will include a consideration of the practical barriers that confront rural clinicians as well as the deep-seated cultural barriers that more specifically impact upon a doctors’ capacity to seek care in a timely manner. A model of health care access that highlights the points at which clinicians are most vulnerable will be presented. After presenting this model for understanding the barriers, the presentation will move the discussion forward and provide a series of steps that are likely to enhance the health care delivery for those receiving care, contextualising the patient-centred consultation when the patient is a clinician. In outlining these steps, a series of pragmatic supports consistent with the work of the Primary Health Network will be highlighted, demonstrating the important intersects with between individual clinician wellness and the health system more broadly. Ensuring the delivery of quality care includes ensuring clinician wellness within the health care team. This is of vital importance for primary care. Prioritising clinician wellness is also likely to help attract and retain skilled clinicians, including doctors, to regional centres.