ALMOST half of junior doctors surveyed at John Hunter Hospital have experienced bullying and harassment in their workplace, but most feared that reporting inappropriate behaviours would result in “negative consequences,” a state report shows.
The John Hunter Hospital received a “C” average in a report card compiled by the NSW Australian Medical Association, scoring a “D” in the areas of staff well-being, rostering and overtime.
The results were based on the latest Alliance NSW Hospital Health Check, which surveyed 20 per cent of the current junior doctor workforce, including about 90 from John Hunter Hospital.
They showed 49 per cent of respondents had experienced bullying or harassment, and 52 per cent had witnessed a colleague being bullied or harassed.
But 70 per cent were concerned about negative consequences if they reported inappropriate workplace behaviours, above the state average of 66 per cent.
NSW Australian Medical Association doctors-in-training sub-committee chair Dr Tessa Kennedy said the survey responses across the state had highlighted “systemic” issues, with many junior doctors feeling overworked and overtired.
The findings come after the recent deaths by suicide of four doctors-in-training in NSW within six months.
Throughout NSW, 71 per cent of junior doctors were concerned about making a clinical error due to fatigue caused by hours worked, and 68 per cent were worried about personal health or safety due to fatigue.
“We know from research that if you are fatigued, if there is bullying in the workplace, if there is other conditions that make it hard, you are surviving and coping with that rather than being able to focus on delivering the best patient care that you can,” Dr Kennedy said.
“What we’ve found is that junior doctors are often putting their patients first, which is good – that’s what should be happening, but it is at the expense of themselves, and that shouldn’t be.”
John Hunter Hospital’s director of medical services, Dr Michael Hensley, said it had been encouraging to see that 80 per cent of respondents in the survey would recommend the hospital to colleagues. But the number of junior doctors who had experienced or witnessed bullying and harassment, and were fearful of reporting it, was a huge concern.
“I think the problem with reporting it is the universal one… that concern that if you identify that it will interfere with your career progression,” Dr Hensley said. “It is certainly my aim that nobody in the workplace should ever tolerate bullying and harassment for fear it will make matters worse for them.”
Dr Hensley said while the hospital had many support systems in place for all of its staff, including an anonymous employee assistance program, they hoped to increase the confidence of junior doctors to encourage them to speak up, as well as increase their skills in self-care.
“I think the steps are there, and the area has recently obtained a grant from the Health and Education Training Institute, to look at how we support junior doctors in the workplace, how we have better rosters, how we minimise fatigue and stress,” Dr Hensley said.
At the Calvary Mater, 44 per cent of junior doctors had experienced and witnessed bullying and harassment, with 67 per cent fearful of negative consequences of reporting it.
The Mater received a “B” average.
Survey grades showed John Hunter Hospital was on par with Sydney hospital’s including St Vincent’s, and St George/Sutherland Hospital.