GPs in training fare better than those in other specialities but the numbers are still ‘unacceptable’.
Around 14 and 15% of GPs in training have respectively experienced or witnessed discrimination, bullying, harassment and/or racism, according to the recently published Medical Training Survey 2023 results.
While this was lower than levels experienced by medical specialist trainees overall – 22% of whom experienced discrimination, bullying, harassment and/or racism and 30% of whom witnessed it – the numbers were still “completely unacceptable”, said RACGP President Nicole Higgins.
“Bullying and harassment make a workplace tense and lead to burnout, absences, or the loss of a trainee and future opportunities to bring on GPs,” she said.
“No one benefits.”
According to the survey, the most common source of the bullying, harassment, discrimination and/or racism towards medical trainees was senior medical staff.
Around 40% was at the hands of patients and/or their family or carer.
Dr Higgins said that while “health can be stressful”, meaning “people let their patience run short and take it out on their doctor, or a colleague”, to rationalise or justify the poor behaviours would be a mistake.
According to the survey, only a third of those who experience the poor behaviours reported it, often because of concerns about repercussions or lack of confidence that it will be addressed.
“There are reporting systems in place for issues in training, but we should all do what we can to stop problems before that step becomes necessary,” added Dr Higgins.
“We are all responsible for creating a safe and supportive workplace.”
The RACGP itself was recently excluded from a systematic audit of Australian medical colleges’ policies on bullying, discrimination and harassment because its website “did not yield an eligible policy” and the college was unresponsive to two email requests.
“The document RACGP Employee Handbook, Incorporating Human Resources Policies 2017 does contain BDH policy, but it applies to RACGP employees rather than members, and therefore, it was not included in the audit,” said the paper.
When asked by The Medical Republic about its policy on bullying, discrimination and harassment the college pointed to its GP in Training Safety and Wellbeing policy.?
This Medical Training Survey marks the first since the RACGP and ACRRM took back the reins of the Australian General Practice Training program on 1 February this year.
Putting a more positive spin on some other results of the survey in their recent media release, the RACGP pointed to improvements in experiences of training, teaching, supervisors and exams.
Of the 2775 RACGP registrars who completed the survey, 84% said they would recommend their training position and workplace, an improvement on 2022 and four percentage points higher than trainees overall.
Over 85% rated the quality of their clinical supervision and teaching sessions as good or excellent.
“These results show the dedication and expertise of the hundreds of medical educators and support staff who joined the RACGP this year to provide training for the next generation of GPs,” said Dr Higgins.
“It is the depth of knowledge our supervisors, medical educators, and operational employees and their continued commitment to improve the RACGP’s GP training program that makes it so strong.
“It’s an enormous credit to everyone who was involved in the transition of training back to the RACGP.”
But, added Dr Higgins, the college will continue to strive to improve from this “benchmark” after facing a year of massive change after reabsorbing most of the nation’s GP training.
“I cannot overstate the scale of the change,” she said.
“Our new medical educators and the employees who support them almost tripled the headcount of the college.”
“It’s rare for so much change to happen so fast in education, and incredibly rare for it be without major disruption, but in fact with improvements to most metrics.”