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A GP for Every Doctor

Supporting our junior doctors this R U OK? Day.

A doctor consulting with a patient in front of a computer
SydneyConnect Image: Dr Andrew Coulshed attending a consultation

Dr Andrew Coulshed is passionate about supporting positive mental health outcomes for his colleagues.

As a junior doctor, he's an enthusiastic advocate for Sydney Local Health District's General Practitioner (GP) for Every Doctor project, which aims to reduce stress and burnout that may be experienced by clinical staff, by encouraging them to have their own GP.

"As doctors, we know that GPs are really important to have, and we often ask patients who their GP is, but we don't have one ourselves," he said.

The District's 2020 Medical Officer Wellbeing survey found that that fewer than 50 per cent of the District's junior doctors have a regular GP.

More than 70 per cent of the approximately 500 survey respondents said they had symptoms of burnout, one-in-six had symptoms of depression and one-in-three had symptoms of anxiety.

Many doctors considered the task of having their own GP logistically very difficult.

"Our jobs are quite demanding, and when you're a junior doctor there are lots of physical and mental barriers to accessing a GP. People felt that they shouldn't have one, and there's an expectation that they look after themselves because they're a doctor," Andrew said.

The District has since implemented strategies to ensure doctors have someone to turn to for support when the going gets tough – an important reminder this R U OK? Day.

It's a national day of action to remind all Australians that every day is the day to ask, 'are you OK?' - an opportunity for people to ask others about their mental health.

"R U OK? Day is an important day for us. We're a massive and diverse local health district of over 16 000 staff, so it's important that we look out for each other," Dr Sarah Michael, a psychiatrist and the Director of Psychological Wellbeing at MDOK, said.

"We are supporting our doctors to have secure and stable support networks at home, and this includes having a GP who is known to them and knows their story."

During the General Practitioner (GP) for Every Doctor project, staff have run educational sessions, to help break down stigma and encourage doctors to seek help, and set up a resource database which includes information about local GP practices.

Feedback has been encouraging, with early indications suggesting that follow-up survey results are positive. The survey results will be published later in the year.

"While this project was specifically targeted at doctors, it is a reminder of the importance for everyone to have their own GP, particularly someone they feel comfortable talking to during periods of stress or low mood," Sarah said.