As we reflect on a huge first half of the year I want to thank everyone for hanging in there as we head further into winter! We know that as the winter bugs escalate, and our shortages are exacerbated, you will no doubt be stretched. It's a time to remind your peers and colleagues to make sure they’re getting out and about and are doing something to help with their wellbeing over the next few months – until the sun shines again!
One of our main focuses coming up is making our preparations to represent you well at negotiations. We know that the restraints on the health sector of the last few years is starting to take its toll, so we have been putting in some groundwork to ensure Te Whatu Ora and the Health Minister are aware of how RMOs are feeling. Outsourcing and outlisting is becoming a huge issue for procedural specialties, which is effecting those more in some centres than others. The last month has seen STONZ be involved in working groups comprising of senior Te Whatu Ora representatives and College representatives of varied disciplines to come together to discuss a robust plan going forward for how operating will look. We are hopefully that this work continues to be meaningful and will translate into real solutions.
The last 6 months have been a blur for me (and I’m sure for some of you as well starting work in different districts around the country). I commenced training in O&G in Christchurch, the largest unit in the south Island, after doing my stint as a non-trainee in Tauranga. It has been a stressful time and has taken a mountain of work to get any ounce of something resembling ‘balance’ and to get a chance to settle in, and catch up with family.
My main focus over the next 6 months is wellbeing, and how we can be better at protecting our home time, managing work stress, and put tools in place to be proactive in avoiding burnout. A recent experience at a College workshop demonstarted a pertinent point; that proactivness rather than reactivness in this space is important. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that more than 70% of O&G SMOs at Middlemore (the busiest unit in the country) attend regular EAP coaching/counselling.
Last month saw mens mental health week get promoted throughout the country with some alarming statistics, which hit home for me, moreso as a doctor!
8 kiwi families daily will see a loved one (partner, husband, father, tupuna) die from preventable illness.
Māori and Pasifika men within their whānau will see their life span shorter than those compared with every other race in Aotearoa.
Mental health and suicide is rife, and affects affects men by more than three times than females!
It is all the more improtant to see these themes in wellbeing being supported around the motu as within our profession burnout rates and fatigue are exacerbated with almost a quarter of doctors at risk of signifcant burnout.
What are some tangible things that we can do?
While STONZ is always advocating for supporting our workforce wellbeing, namely with our work within the national fatigue working group which spans Health NZ as a whole, and through our support to rostering changes at a local level, there is also alot you can do to protect yourself.
Schedule your leave! We know that getting leave is a headache, even at the best of times, and we know that different districts are harder than others. But the principle remains that a rested workforce is better than a burnt out one. If you are struggling to get any leave booked in, get in touch with our support team.
Regular EAP should be a part of your professional development and is healthy. Personally, it was hard for me to take the first step (i.e. recognising that this would be beneficial), but it cant be underestimated. Each District has a different EAP provider, and the contact details should be available on your local intranet site.
Regular family and friend time is a must, even those of you burying your heads in the textbooks. I find it helpful to schedule a day or afternoon off regardless of the mountain of work to fit this in.
Senior colleagues are starting to get sick of me endlessly complaining to them, but they are a wealth of knowledge to navigate the ins and outs of managing people (SMOs, and more junior colleagues) and will no doubt have sound advice, or be a great sounding board for work stresses.
See your GP regularly, or better yet, make sure you have one!
I dont confess to being an expert, but I can tell you that I have had a huge amount of stress that is affecting me and my family, and I will be setting the example by making changes; and I hope you do to!
Take care out there! And please don't hesitate to get in contact with us to help support you.
Vice President STONZ