Managing the Stress of Complaints

20 Sep 2018

Helen Havryk

by Dr Helen Havryk

We recognise that medical practitioners who are the subject of complaints can experience significant emotional responses and symptoms.

A recent report commissioned by Australian Doctor described one medical practitioner’s reaction to receiving a complaint from AHPRA. Comments from fellow practitioners echoed the practitioner’s feelings of shock, panic, fear and uncertainty.

Approximately 5% of medical practitioners received a notification from AHPRA in 2016/2017. Given these statistics, the potential for any doctor to receive at least one complaint during their career is high. The challenge is addressing the complaint, without the process negatively impacting on the doctor’s wellbeing.

Strategies to minimise the stress of the complaints process include:

  • Understanding that it is normal to experience an intense emotional response when faced with a complaint
  • Involving your Medical Defence Organisation as early as possible for advice and support, including seeking clarification about the complaints process
  • Participating in continuing medical education and other interaction with your peers
  • Instituting steps to re-order your practice to make it more manageable
  • Talking openly about your feelings with your Medical Defence Organisation, family, friends and/or trusted colleagues
  • Having your own general practitioner
  • Seeking professional counselling if you need more support
  • Seeking medical assistance if somatic symptoms do not resolve promptly.

Additional assistance is also available through the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service, a free and confidential 24 hour service provided by a panel of experienced general practitioners. 

This blog contains general information only. We recommend you contact your medical defence organisation or insurer when you require specific advice in relation to medico-legal matters.



My Career Journey with Dr Nick Coatsworth

Dr Nick Coatsworth is an expert in health policy, public administration and a practising infectious diseases physician. He held a national role in the Australian response to COVID-19 as Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Australia, becoming one of the most recognised medical spokespeople during the pandemic. Nick engaged the Australian community through a variety of media platforms most notably as the spearhead of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Dr Micheal Gannon, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, sits down with Dr Nick Coatsworth to discuss Nick's medical career journey, and what insights and advice he has for junior doctors. MDA National would like to acknowledge the contributions of MDA National staff, Members, friends and colleagues in the production of the podcast and note that this work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under applicable copyright law, you may not reproduce the content of this podcast without the permission of MDA National. This podcast contains generic information only, is intended to stimulate thought and discussion, and doesn’t account for requirements of any particular individual. The content may contain opinions which are not necessarily those of MDA National. We recommend that you always contact your indemnity provider when you require specific advice in relation to your insurance policy or medico-legal matters. MDA National Members need to contact us for specific medico-legal advice on freecall 1800 011 255 or email We may also refer you to other professional services.


09 Jun 2022

Career complications and contending with uncertainty

Among the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for junior doctors is how to respond to medical training impacts and career uncertainty. In this podcast, Dr Caroline Elton (a psychologist who specialises in helping doctors)and Dr Benjamin Veness (a Psychiatry registrar) share advice for coping with medical training and career delays, disruptions and unknowns.


10 Aug 2020