BEING bullied, berated and belittled by senior staff in front of peers and patients has been likened to a “hazing” process by a junior medical officer (JMO) working within Hunter New England Health.
“There is definitely an attitude of, ‘We had to work under these conditions, so should you,’” a junior doctor has told the Newcastle Herald. “But no one is really speaking up because we don’t have any job security.
“When your contract is up, if you haven’t sucked up enough, over-performed and gotten all of your reference letters, you don’t have a job. You have just done a five or six year degree, or four if you are a post-grad, and you have no job security.”
A survey of 73 interns working within the Hunter New England Health district was widely circulated via email and social media to highlight some of the issues facing doctors-in-training.
It was conducted by a junior medical officer working at John Hunter Hospital, who declined to comment.
The survey found 50 per cent of respondents felt their “collective” work experiences had made them stressed about the years to come, and 18 per cent wishing they had chosen a different career.
It showed almost 37 per cent of negative interactions in the workplace had occurred with nursing staff, 35 per cent with registrars, and 13 per cent with consultants or staff specialists.
“Nurses get stressed as well, and junior doctors get rotated in every couple of months. They must think, ‘Oh, god, here’s another batch of over-educated people who don’t know how to do their job yet.’ That’s understandable,” a JMO said.
“Registrars are stressed too. They are basically the grunt dogs, trying to do their training, trying to do their education, and trying to manage us minions as well.”
More than 35 per cent of respondents said negative interactions with medical staff occurred weekly, and more than 12 per cent faced it daily. Survey comments regaled stories of being patronised, ridiculed and “yelled at” in front of other medical staff and patients, as well as over the phone during night shifts. There were experiences of unrealistic workloads, being sworn at and abused.
The survey also showed 48.5 per cent of interns worked unpaid overtime weekly, and 40 per cent daily.
Dr Tessa Kennedy, the chair of the NSW Alliance Doctors in Training Committee, said many junior doctors described their initiation into medicine as a “hazing.”
“The whole concept of it is basically a cycle of abuse, like any other,” she said.
“Medicine works a little like an apprenticeship model. If you are not taught to deal with your junior staff in your unit in a respectful way, then they are going to continue that behaviour to the people who come next.”