Download PDF: FL Communiqué April 2018
Case: The heart of the problem
Preparedness – the role of institution, supervisor and individual
Junior doctors in a rural health system
Comments from our peers
Welcome to the April 2018 issue of the Future Leaders Communiqué. In this issue, we will review the coronial inquest into the death of a woman shortly after her attendance at a small rural hospital. The doctor presiding over this patient’s care was a junior doctor who was operating in an under-resourced and under-supported environment. This is not an uncommon experience for junior doctors, so we have decided to explore this area further in this issue.
As junior doctors working within a hectic public health care system, it is important to be aware of our limits and operate within our current scope of safe practice. This can be difficult when we are asked to work above our capacity, or are placed in situations where we are not as supported as we should be. Extending ourselves professionally is necessary, but it is imperative that this development occurs under appropriate supervision. As in the case described in this issue, I have frequently been placed in situations where I have been ‘out of my depth’. One example was during my first HMO (House Medical Officer) year, where I was told by my medical workforce unit that I would be covering the work for a gastroenterology advanced trainee while that person attended a conference. Many of us have been asked to cover our specialty registrars on leave and, as described in this case, the vast majority of us will one day face our first rural rotation with varying levels of preparedness.
The challenge of maintaining the fine balance of staffing and supervision is faced daily by our medical workforce units, mostly made up of non-medically trained staff who do not always have a full understanding of the specific skills required for each job description. It is therefore essential as junior doctors that we realise our limits and ensure we are placed in jobs that meet our level of experience. It is also essential, as we progress through our careers, that we are cognisant of providing adequate support and open lines of communication to our junior colleagues.