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The Thriving Doctor conference [Event Recap]

Two AFMW Councillors here amongst the leaders of Australasian Doctors Health Network: Dr Jen Shafer - second from right and Dr Marjorie Cross second from left

AFMW Council member, Dr Marjorie Cross OAM attended the recent Australasian Doctors’ Health Conference 2022 “The Thriving Doctor: towards harmony, productivity, longevity” and provides this insightful update and shares key takeaways and an important contact number.

[Photo: Two AFMW Councillors here amongst the leaders of Australasian Doctors Health Network: Dr Jen Shafer – second from right and Dr Marjorie Cross second from left]


The thriving doctor: conference update

What is necessary for a doctor to thrive? Amid rising rates of doctor burnout, this important question brought medical leaders together from across the country in December for the Australasian Doctors’ Health Conference in Adelaide in the first week of December.

Two of your AFMW Councillors, Dr Jennifer Schafer who is the new Queensland Representative to the Council of AFMW and myself were at the Conference and both of us as State/Territory representatives in the Australasian Doctors Health Network.  I found the three-day conference an invaluable opportunity to consider the individual, workplace and system-wide factors that contribute to doctor wellbeing and conversely to burnout.

I cannot emphasise enough how valuable the conference was. We heard from some outstanding thinkers from around the world who have been collecting evidence that shows supporting doctor wellbeing is central to enabling doctors to do their jobs well.

There were excellent plenaries from international and local speakers with often deeply personal stories such as that of Sharee Johnson, who has written a book called The Thriving Doctor -and who had experienced some less than empathetic care when her husband was dying from cancer and who set out to support doctors as a result of that experience. Many of the speakers spoke movingly of their personal stories and this included the International plenary speakers, Dr Tait Shanafelt from the Stanford School of Medicine and Dr Helen Garr, Medical Director of NHS Practitioner Health in the UK.

Other speakers included Australian doctors, such as Dr Margaret Kay and Dr Ira van der Steenstraten, who are  both Queensland members of AFMW,  as well as Dr Stephen Parnis, Dr Geoff Toogood  and many others all acknowledging the health of the profession needs to be supported at all these levels : at the individual level of  caring about immediate health  needs of doctors , by work place improvements, so that workplaces are constructed to bring out the best in people, and by systems wide changes whereby the broader system is aware of the need to create an environment where doctors can come to work and continue to give the 110%  that they already give to their patients.

The conference involved medical students, doctors in training, doctors that are hospital based and doctors from rural and remote areas, including Antarctica and Remote Aboriginal communities. It was particularly good to see some of the Colleges represented, including the College of Surgeons and the RACGP.

This conference was NOT about yet more resilience. In fact it was said that doctors are already amongst the most resilient of people. It was about striving for systems change at all those levels.

Amongst the many issues raised was the importance of encouraging the regulators to fulfil their obligations in as timely a manner as possible, and Dr Anne Tonkin of AHPRA said that ultimately, doctors should be reassured it is only the most egregious issues that affect patient safety that the regulators are interested in

I came away absolutely determined to continue my efforts to be a voice for change at all those levels, connecting with doctors individually , making my workplace as supportive as possible for all my staff and advocating for systems improvements throughout the profession.


The doctor as patient

The Australasian Doctors Health Network presented at the conference on the work of their member organisations, and this was one plenary where both Dr Schaeffer and I spoke

Attached are the contacts of all the State and Territory Health Services around Australia and the contact for 24/7 Help Line

At one level, consultations with doctors are no different to any others; doctors are human beings, with human needs, just like any other patient, however shared decision-making – whilst always the aim – takes on heightened importance when the patient is a doctor. We need to respect the unwell doctor’s skills and what he or she brings to the table.”


Drs4Drs 1300 374 377

The confidential Drs4Drs 24/7 phone support line 1300 374 377 aims to connect doctors and medical students to local doctors, available to assist with all health and wellbeing needs.

I encourage doctors who use the service to provide us with feedback. We really want to make this service as useful as possible to our doctors and medical students, and so we need to hear from you.

Drs4Drs logo





Dr Marjorie Cross

Dr Marjorie Cross, OAM
AFMW Council member
AFMW representative for ACT and Region MWS






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