Articles and Case Studies

A Motivation for Mentoring

20 Mar 2015

“Medicine is a very demanding profession, and nothing quite prepares junior doctors for the heavy workloads, long hours and varying shifts. The struggle to maintain a work-life balance can be overwhelming and it’s important that junior doctors are able to seek help from senior colleagues,” says MDA National Member, Dr Rachel Collings.
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Rachel began her career at The Townsville Hospital in Queensland where she initiated the Junior Doctor Mentoring Program. Her commitment and the success of this program have led to her book, Mentoring Doctors, which she co-authored and launched in June 2014.

1. What motivated you to become a doctor?

I grew up in the remote town of Glenden in central Queensland. I remember once as a teenager being driven two hours to the closest hospital to receive treatment for an ear infection as we had no doctor in the town. Moments like these made me realise the importance of health care and the difference medical professionals can make in the lives of individuals and communities – these experiences motivated me to pursue medicine.

2. What’s a typical day in your life as a RANZCOG trainee?

No two days are the same, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of medicine. As an obstetrics and gynaecology trainee I may be in antenatal clinic providing pregnancy advice; in theatre performing laparoscopic surgery; in the emergency department reviewing a woman with pain; or I may be found taking part in the joy of delivering a baby.

3. Tell us about the Junior Doctor Mentoring Program and how it all began.

Following graduation, I commenced my internship at The Townville Hospital in North Queensland. Although the hospital had a very supportive environment, I felt this could be supplemented with a mentoring program where junior doctors could build a mentoring relationship with a more senior doctor who could provide advice, support and direction.

When I presented the idea to the medical administration team, they were extremely supportive of the initiative and placed me in contact with Dianne Salvador, a talented medical education officer with a background in Psychology. Together we designed and implemented one of Queensland’s first hospital-based mentoring programs – The Townsville Hospital Doctors for Doctors Mentoring Program.

Since its release, the program has grown into a popular and effective support system for junior doctors. Last year, 60 of the 70 interns commencing at the Townsville Hospital engaged with the mentoring service.

4. What inspired you to co-author the book, Mentoring Doctors, which was released last year?

Following the implementation of the Doctors for Doctors Mentoring Program in 2011, Dianne and I received widespread interest from training hospitals across Australia and New Zealand on how they too could develop a similar program. This inspired us to write Mentoring Doctors, a resource that provides the tools and knowledge on how to design and implement a mentoring program unique to the needs of junior doctors within the hospital environment. With the health of doctors being a serious concern, the need for increased support services is as important as ever. Mentoring is uniquely positioned to provide support that is individualised and effective.

View Rachel Collings’ interview on ABC news regarding the Mentoring Doctors book launch: abc.net.au/news/2014-06-27/effort-to-better-mentor-stressed-out-young-doctors/5554084.

5. What are some of your career highlights?

Certainly one of the highlights so far has been the launch of Mentoring Doctors. It has been a rollercoaster experience full of excitement and anticipation. Another highlight was the opportunity I had as a final year medical student to participate in providing a medical outreach clinic to an isolated community in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It involved a 5000-metre altitude mountain climb and a close call with a puma, but it was an unforgettable opportunity to be able to provide a very small amount of assistance to a community that had no access to medical care.

6. What are your interests outside of work?

Sport has always played an integral part in my life. I enjoy running, touch football, swimming and the gym. With my Queensland background, I love attending NRL and Rugby games. However, as a new Victorian, I’m still trying to decipher the rules of AFL! I also have a strong interest in food and cooking. Living in Melbourne has provided an endless list of new cafes and restaurants to test.

7. Do you have any words of advice for new intern Members?

Always be honest. Never be afraid to ask for help – whether it’s simply asking for assistance in understanding a patient’s blood results or asking for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. The ability to be confident within yourself, yet humble enough to accept that you’re not superhuman, is one of the most important skills to learn as a doctor.

Watch MDA National’s videos on YouTube for practical tips on surviving internship: Surviving Nightshift and Things I Wish I’d Known as a New Intern.

8. What’s your favourite philosophical quote?

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” – by Oscar Wilde.

9. What’s next for you, personally and professionally?

This year, I’ll be heading off to country Victoria to continue my RANZCOG training, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the country lifestyle! I also plan to enjoy the excitement of our book release.

Peru

"The ability to be confident within yourself, yet humble enough to accept that you’re not superhuman, is one of the most important skills to learn as a doctor."

Mentoring Doctors is available from leading online bookstores. Rachel Collings recommends JR Medical Books located at 728 Plenty Road, Reservoir, Victoria. Phone: (03) 9478 3288. Online: medicalbooks.com.au. If you have any purchasing enquiries or feedback about the book, please email Rachel or Dianne at mentoringdoctors@gmail.com.

The importance of study-life balance cannot be ignored

The key findings of the National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students in 2013 included the following:

  • One in five medical students and one in 10 doctors had suicidal thoughts in the past year, compared with one in 45 people in the wider community.
  • More than four in 10 students and a quarter of doctors are highly likely to have a minor psychiatric disorder.
  • Young doctors work longer hours (50 per week on average), are far more psychologically distressed, think about suicide more, and experience more burnout than their older colleagues.
  • The most common source of work stress reported by doctors was related to balancing work and personal responsibilities; other sources of stress included too much work (25%), responsibility at work (20.8%), long work hours (19.5%), fear of making mistakes (18.7%), bullying (4.5%) and racism (1.7%).

MDA National has two additional support programs to ensure that our Members are provided with an appropriate level of support when dealing with a medico-legal issue:

  • Doctors for Doctors Program: aims to provide understanding and support by enabling the Member to share their experience with another doctor during the course of a medico-legal matter.
  • Professional Support Service: aims to provide the Member with direct access to an independent psychiatrist who can provide professional and confidential support during the course of a medico-legal matter.

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