Doctor Wellbeing

Western medicine is the modern model of healthcare, but is it supporting our collective wellbeing?

The roots of medicine are ancient, going back to the time of Hippocrates and Plato and beyond, to a time when physicians were healers, scientists, philosophers and deeply religious people, who cared for the whole health and wellbeing of themselves and those they lived to serve.

Today’s evidence based medicine is ever-developing at a rate that is hard for us to keep up with, but is it working for us as individuals and as a collective whole?

Why are the rates of illness and disease rising?

Why are people getting sicker at earlier and earlier ages?

Why are we seeing a rise in lifestyle related diseases when we know what is causing them and therefore how to deal with them?

And why are so many practitioners being harmed in and by their practice of medicine?

Is the very evidence-based knowledge that we revere, something that we are applying to ourselves, when it comes to lifestyle-related diseases?

Evidence-based medicine on its own is clearly not enough, and there is more to the practise of true medicine, which is an art, as well as a science. For medicine to be healing, it needs to be practised with love and care, for our patients and for ourselves.

Current reports about the levels of depression, anxiety, burnout and exhaustion among doctors, and the heartbreaking stories of doctor suicides, have forced us as a profession to take an honest look at our own health and wellbeing.

We are not superhuman, but we try to live and work as if we are superheroes, and working and living like this takes its toll on ourselves, our loved ones and our patients. Perhaps it is time to accept that we are human, that we are imperfect, that we are affected by everything we see, feel and live, and to start treating ourselves as the precious, tender beings that we innately are.

This could be the beginning of us returning to live with a true quality of wellbeing where we wake up feeling vital, full of energy and enthusiasm for our work and for the day – instead of the suffering, distress, hardship, and physical and mental illness that many of us are now experiencing.

Imagine the joy, productivity and quality of care of a medical profession that lived in a way that developed that quality of true wellbeing. This is not idealistic – we felt this way as children and we can return to it again – and it is achievable by making simple changes in our lives.

To shift from the current medical culture of struggle, depletion and misery to one of joy, fullness and vitality requires that we make love and care the foundation of medicine – starting with ourselves – so that it is imbued into the culture of medicine from the moment we enter medical school and becomes the living way of our great profession.

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Latest Articles on Doctor Wellbeing

AJ Held dawn 23 July 2021 for article by Dr Anne Malatt on a Wellbeing Charter for Doctors

A Wellbeing Charter for Doctors

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The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) in conjunction with several other medical colleges and more to come, has just released a Wellbeing Charter for Doctors. This is a great first step in acknowledging the importance of self-care in healthcare professionals and the need for this care to be a shared responsibility for all of us.
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R U OK? Day

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This year, 9 September is R U OK? Day. This is an Australian initiative that was developed in 2009 by a man whose father was not OK and died by suicide.
pale pink rose in Virgo 20 for article by Dr Anne Malatt on Standards

Standards

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We all have standards. They may not always be the same standards, but we all have them. Values that we hold dear, points of truth we will not compromise, a way of living that we hold as sacred.
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Spring Cleaning You   

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Spring is such a beautiful time of the year. So why not take the time to love ourselves, inside and out, and refresh the way we feel about ourselves and life?
Photo of Dr Michael Myers for article by Dr Michael Myers

It Is Never Too Late

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My name is Evan Haines*. I’m writing you because I believe my mother, who, sadly, committed suicide in 1989, was under your care. I remember your name, and that she always thought very highly of you.
Photo of complex images by Alan Johnston for article on mindfulness by Dr Anne Malatt

Mindfulness and Conscious Presence

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We hear the word ‘mindfulness’ mentioned a lot these days, but what is it? How do you do it? And what does it do for you?
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The Art and Science of Repose

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Repose is not a word that is used much these days, but it once was, as seen in this graph of its use over time. Repose is a quality we could perhaps do with more of, so what is it, how do we do it and where do we start?
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Self-care Moments: Living in cycles

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Hi, this is Anne Malatt with self-care moments and this is a moment on living in cycles. We think that we live a day in a linear way and move from one day to the next, leaving each one behind us as we go. In truth, we live in cycles. We live one day, over and over again, and everything comes with us as we go around and around the sun.
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Self-care moments: A moment with tension

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Hi this is Anne Malatt with self-care moments, and this is a moment on tension.Tension is an inescapable part of human life. We are subject to forces of tension all the time ... so how do we deal with tension?
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Self-care moments: Working

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We spend around a third of our days and most of our waking hours working, getting ready for work and travelling to and from work … how do we feel about work and in what quality do we spend that time?
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Self-care moments: Taking a break

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Taking a break is not a time to escape from our bodies and our lives, but a time to enjoy being in our bodies even more deeply, and to appreciate ourselves, just for who we are.
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Self-care moments: Drinking

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If you think you may be drinking too much alcohol, you probably are, knowing that even one drink is not good for you. So consider looking at why you drink and you may just find that waiting inside you is a younger you who does not like the taste of alcohol, but who loves you, just as you are … and let that essence of you and the knowing of your body, guide your way through life.
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Self-care moments: Eating

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I love eating food and always have. I have come to understand that there is a purpose to food beyond stimulating and satisfying the senses.
Photo of Dr Michael Myers for article by Dr Michael Myers

Remembering Dr. Lorna Breen on National Physician Suicide Awareness Day

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September 17, 2020, marked the third annual National Physician Suicide Awareness Day. This is a day to remember physicians who have taken their own lives.
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Anxiety in the body – Anxiety in Medicine; Deconstructing our ‘Normal’

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Let’s be honest, as doctors and health professionals we learn to live with anxiety in the body. Not all at once perhaps, but by degrees.
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Lighthouse

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We are each and every one of us a lighthouse, designed to shine bright and light the way for others. It is for us to let that light out and shine in full, reminding everyone we meet that they too are that light, for this light lives inside us all, and we are all here to shine and light the way home together.
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Giving Physicians a Private Place to Turn

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For several months, I have been following news about the Physician Support Line launched by Dr. Mona Masood, a Philadelphia psychiatrist (1,2). As a...
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CrazySocks4Docs, COVID-19, and Hope

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The Twitter phenomenon #CrazySocks4Docs was created by Melbourne, Australia cardiologist Dr. Geoff Toogood, who speaks and writes openly about his lived experience with anxiety...
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Physician Heal Thyself: What Medical Training and the Body have taught me about Truth

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While it would be nice to pretend otherwise, I did not embark on a career in medicine for altruistic reasons, to earn a good...
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Coronavirus and contagion: what are we passing on?

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My husband works as a doctor in a hospital so I am frequently reminded of the constant demand health professionals are under. On a...
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The antidote to mental health stigma amongst doctors: humanity

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The Healing Power of Self-Disclosure in Physicians

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As part of my clinical research on lived experience in physicians, I recently interviewed a retired California urologist, William Lynes, MD. Although we’ve never...
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Is there a cure for loneliness?

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I recently read an article in the Lancet on loneliness (1). Loneliness is not new news, but the condition has now assumed the status...
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Reflections on Christmas Day

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Harnessing Grief Into Action: A Tribute to a Remarkable Woman

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Dr. Sangeeta Mahajan is a remarkable woman. She is a consultant anesthetist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, England. She...
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The purpose of food: to satisfy the senses or to nourish the whole body?

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I recently read an article on the use of food as medicine in cancer patients … it was complicated and left me feeling confused,...
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From being bored to enriching life

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I work as an eye doctor and people sometimes ask me: Don’t you get bored with what you do? Well the answer is: No,...
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National Physician Suicide Awareness Day: We Refuse to Forget

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September 17, 2019 was the second annual National Physician Suicide Awareness Day. As I wrote here last year, it is a day to commemorate...

World Mental Health Day – true health is for everyone, every day

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It was recently (10/10) World Mental Health Day. This is a great initiative, and to be celebrated for raising our awareness of things that...
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The Clock Is Ticking

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In these days of evidence based practice where generally the prize goes to the best evidence money can buy, it is refreshing that occasionally...