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30.11.18

Half of emergency medicine doctors feel short of sleep and burnt out at work

Emergency medicine has stood out as the profession with the biggest percentage (46%) of trainees who report feeling short of sleep while at work, while three-quarters of them described the intensity of their workload as either ‘heavy’ or ‘very heavy.’

In a shocking review of its latest annual national training surveys, including an investigation on burnout for the first time ever, the GMC discovered that emergency medicine doctors are at the forefront of staff wellbeing concerns.

But burnout was present across the board: it was more prevalent amongst trainees who disagreed that rotas helped them optimise their education and development, whilst more trainers reported burnout in posts where they weren’t always able to use their allocated training time.

Charlie Massey, the GMC’s chief executive, said: “Proportionally more doctors who feel unsupported at work with high workloads tell us they experience exhaustion and burnout. That can erode the quality of their training as well as potentially putting patients at risk.

“These warning signs must not be ignored.”

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, who was recently interviewed by NHE, noted that burnout is a “large contributor” to the NHS’s failure to retain staff.

“At a time when the medical workforce is experiencing ever-increasing pressures, we simply cannot risk more doctors experiencing burnout or feeling discontented with their roles because they haven’t been properly supported,” he added.

Overall, the GMC discovered that high-quality, on-the-job training for UK doctors could be at risk if the “tell-tale warning signs in the workplace go unheeded.” These include poor handovers and inductions and gaps in rotas, all of which should be taken as pointers of more significant systemic problems that can affect quality of training.

“Handovers, inductions and well-organised rotas are indicators of workplaces where teamwork and positive cultures are fostered, and where trainees feel well supported,” continued Massey. “But where these aspects run less well doctors more commonly report poor experiences.”

Today’s surveys account for the views and experiences of more than 70,000 doctors in training, as well as senior doctors who act as trainers.

The high numbers of surveyed staff make it even more concerning that, overall, one in six doctors in training said handover arrangements did not always ensure continuity of care between different departments. Even worse, one in three said handovers weren’t used as learning opportunities, as per GMC standards.

 

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