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Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL)

The health workforce is now a key focus of government policy. The ever-increasing demand for health care, the ageing of the medical workforce, the increase in the number of women entering medicine and changes in doctors preferences in relation to their work life balance, all have an impact on the ability of the health care system to provide high quality and accessible health care. Despite this, there is little knowledge or understanding of how and why doctors make decisions about such things as how many hours they work, their location of work (including decisions about working in rural and remote areas) or when to leave the medical workforce and retire. These decisions have important implications for the populations access to health care and therefore their health status and the quality of care received.

The research
The research will examine the changing patterns of doctors working lives over time in order to better understand doctor shortages and surpluses and the pivotal role of doctors in the health care system. Changes in doctors family circumstances, job satisfaction, earnings and the nature of their work will be examined in order to determine the most effective policy responses for maintaining the size, motivation and productivity of the trained medical workforce. The research will provide a rigorous analysis of the decisions which underlie the workforce distribution and work patterns of doctors. The survey results will provide important information in support of future policy development and evaluation.

The survey
The MABEL survey will be used track an initial random stratified sample of around 15,000 doctors including GPs, private specialists, hospital doctors, and doctors in specialist training. The first wave of the survey is planned for May 2008.

Why is this study distinctive and different?
Doctors receive many surveys. Most of them end up simply describing what you do and where you work. However, in order to try and improve the situation and improve your working life, it is very important to understand the reasons behind the many different types of decisions you make during your career that influence your hours of work, where you work, and what you think about working in medicine.
The longitudinal nature of the survey allows the researchers to follow doctors over time and enables examination of these factors and changing viewpoints over time.

What will I be asked to do?
You will be asked to fill out a confidential questionnaire, which should take around 30 minutes to complete.

Who is funding, conducting and supporting MABEL?
MABEL has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for 5 years in the first instance. The survey is being conducted and analysed by researchers at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne (Professor Anthony Scott and Associate Professor Guyonne Kalb), in collaboration with the Department of General Practice (Dr. Catherine Joyce) and the School of Rural Health (Professor John Humphreys) at Monash University.
MABEL also has a Policy Reference Group who are providing advice about the medical workforce policy issues that will inform the collection and analysis of data. This includes representatives from the Department of Health and Ageing, the Australian Medical Association, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, the Australian Remote and Rural Workforce Agencies Group, the State Health Departments, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

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