Researchers are calling for changes in the culture and working conditions of young doctors in the UK after their new research revealed a lack of access to clinical and emotional support.
The call comes as a team of researchers led by the University of Birmingham, including experts from Keele University, University College London, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Universities of Leeds and Manchester. a qualitative study through in-depth interviews with 21 NHS junior doctors.
The study funded by the National Institute for Health Research, detailed in two papers published today (June 24) in BMJ Open, examined the psychological, cultural, and occupational contexts associated with the reduction of psychological well-being in juvenile physicians and the protective factors that can be mitigated against this.
The results showed four key issues related to work-related stress: workload and working conditions; toxic work cultures such as abuse and bullying, sexism and racism, and a culture of blame and shame; lack of support; stigma and the perceived need to seem invulnerable.
The analysis of the interviews also includes specific topics that protect juvenile physicians and facilitate support, including the emotional and practical support of co-workers to help manage workloads; solidarity leadership strategies, including those that challenge stigma; and access to professional support such as counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication.
The first lead author and researcher in the research, Dr Ruth Riley of the University of Birmingham, said: “Normalizing vulnerability through outreach and creating emotionally open cultures where vulnerability is accepted and understood, enables junior staff have more open confidence about the factors that affect your own well-being and seek and receive support when needed.
“Supporting physicians requesting free time or rest and facilitating access to support could reduce the potential for isolation in the workplace and reduce barriers related to stigma in seeking help.
“Examples of effective interventions and solutions to minimize distress and support staff are evident in existing leadership and peer support, but need to be practiced more consistently across the NHS.”
Co-author Carolyn Chew-Graham, a professor of General Practice Research at Keele University, said: “Participants reported stress and anxiety attributable to working conditions, such as unrealistic workloads. and long hours, toxic work cultures such as bullying, sexism and discrimination. guilt and shame ‘ culture, and fear of denunciation.
“We call for a cultural shift within medicine towards more supportive and compassionate work and leadership environments and a zero-tolerance approach to harassment, harassment and discrimination.”
Research is the first study to qualitatively examine how younger physicians view their working conditions, their work cultures, and the factors that may protect them from psychological distress or provide them with support.
There are currently 115,376 doctors working in the NHS, almost half of whom (56,404) are referred to as ‘junior doctors’, which includes doctors in specialist training or undergraduate consultants and doctors in the founding year.
Riley et al (June 2021). “Sources of work related to the psychological distress experienced by the foundation across the UK and junior doctors: a qualitative study”. BMJ Open.
Riley et al (June 2021). “Protection factors and sources of support in the workplace based on the experience of the British foundation and young doctors: a qualitative study.” BMJ Open.
University of Birmingham
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