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‘We have an expectation on ourselves of perfection’

A pilot program at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital designed to improve junior doctors’ wellbeing is attracting national and international interest, as the medical profession looks to reduce levels of stress, burnout and depression among some of its most vulnerable members.
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The early years of medicine are particularly challenging, in part due to the long hours and taxing training and exams. During a national survey by beyondblue in 2013, young doctors reported poor mental health and high levels of stress and burnout, with almost 28 per cent of doctors under 30 having had thoughts of suicide prior to the previous 12 months.

Bethan Richards, RPA’s former network director of physician training, said three basic physician trainees (BPTs) in NSW had taken their own lives in the months before the program was pitched in March. “That really gave us the impetus to take it front and centre,” Dr Richards said.

The n-first program teaches BPTs, or medical registrars, how to debrief, manage traumatic and emotionally challenging events and recognise signs of stress and burnout. It also provides personal and motivational training to make regular exercise, as well as good nutrition and sleep practices, part of their busy schedules.

Called BPTOK, it was developed by past and current BPTs, training directors, psychiatrists and mentors. Funded through the Sydney Local Health District’s innovation challenge, The Pitch, it is delivered in protected teaching time as a core element of training.

Dr Richards saw the impact heavy workloads and responsibilities were having on young doctors, with about 10 per cent of trainees referred externally for psychological help.

“In a way, it was [making] them sick,” she said. “As doctors we’re not very good at seeking help from others and we have an expectation on ourselves of perfection – of not making mistakes, not being sick. It’s harder to be there for patients who are in their own world of distress when doctors are not in the healthiest mindset.”

Dr Richards said the program would make the trainees better doctors and sent the message “that we value these skills as much as we value … the other life-saving skills we’re teaching. We’d love to see all this taught at medical school.”

Dr Louise Ward, a recent BPT who delivered the program pitch, said it reassured trainees “they’re not alone, there will be other people having difficulties”.

“It’s common not to talk about having problems, but this is part of the step towards changing the culture in medicine, to make it okay to admit that you might need help and to ask for help.”

Muirhead back to work after Brumbies dream

Andrew Muirhead. Brumbies captains run 2nd June 2017. Photo by Karleen Minney.How do you celebrate scoring your first Super Rugby double? With a keg party of course.
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But this isn’t the type of beer keg you’d expect after Andrew Muirhead scored two tries in his second game for the ACT Brumbies.

Instead, Muirhead was contemplating going back to work delivering kegs when he arrived home this week “to keep me awake” after a dream start to his Brumbies career.

Muirhead has been rewarded for his two tries in 13 minutes by keeping his place on the bench for the Brumbies’ clash against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night.

The Brumbies arrived in Canberra on Monday night after a perfect two-game tour of South Africa and Argentina, finishing with a 39-15 thumping of the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

It was a fairytale ride for Muirhead, who doesn’t have a full-time professional contract and was plucked from Canberra’s club rugby competition to join the touring squad two weeks ago.

Muirhead had to ask his boss at Murrell Distribution for some time off delivering kegs and tyres to chase his rugby ambitions.

He got the perfect reward when she scored two tries against the Jaguares, the second a superb solo effort of twisting and turning his way to the line.

It could be the catalyst to earn a Super Rugby full-time deal and launch his career.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest with you,” Muirhead said.

“Hopefully this leads to something in the future but I don’t know yet. We’ll wait and see.

“I think I’ll have Tuesday morning off, my boss is pretty good. But we work some half days so I might look to do a few hours in the afternoon to keep me awake.

“The boss has looked after me so I’ll do right by him as well.”

Muirhead was the icing on the cake to the Brumbies’ two wins and form turnaround on a massive journey to Port Elizabeth and Buenos Aires.

He was the ninth player to debut for the Brumbies this year and rookie prop Faalelei Sione became the 10th in the clash against the Jaguares.

The rise of unknown players is the silver lining to the Brumbies this year, who have capitalised on opportunities to be on the verge of a fifth consecutive finals appearance.

Fullback Tom Banks is another who has leapt out of obscurity to stamp himself as a Super Rugby player, using his lightning speed to score a double against the Jaguares.

But even after his own try-scoring feats, Banks made special mention of Muirhead’s efforts.

“He’s such a good bloke and he’s worked unbelievably hard coming down from Brisbane to Canberra this year,” Banks said.

“To get his opportunity, he’s taken it with both hands and I’m really proud of him. He’ll do a lot for this team.”

The Brumbies will play the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night and a third consecutive win all but secure a finals spot.

The game will be prop Ben Alexander’s 143rd game for the Brumbies, setting a new club record as the most capped player.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham kept an unchanged starting XV last week, but he could opt to rotate players after a heavy travel schedule over the past two weeks.


Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

Brumbies team: 15. Tom Banks, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Kyle Godwin, 11. Aidan Toua, 10. Wharenui Hawera, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Jordan Smiler, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Rory Arnold, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Josh Mann-Rea, 1. Nic Mayhew. Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Faalelei Sione, 18. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Tom Staniforth, 20. Jarrad Butler, 21. De Wet Roos, 22. Andrew Muirhead, 23. Nigel Ah Wong.

Rebels team: 15. Reece Hodge, 14. Sefa Naivalu, 13. Tom English, 12. Mitch Inman, 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Nic Sirzaker, 8. Amanaki Mafi, 7. Colby Faingaa, 6. Hugh Sinclair, 5. Lopeti Timani, 4. Steve Cummins, 3. Tyrel Lomax. 2. James Hanson, 1. Toby Smith. Reserves: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Cruze Ah Nau, 18. Laurie Weeks, 19. Culum Retallick, 20. Will Miller, 21. Ben Meehan, 22. Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23. Jonah Placid.

OpinionWorld Environment Day a call to arms

World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5.Globally, events supporting positive environmental action have been held on this day since 1972.
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Twenty years ago on this day the ground-breaking Pathways to Sustainability: Local Initiatives for Cities and Townsinternational conference was held atNewcastle City Hall.The five-day conference was endorsed by the United Nations.Speakers came from over 30 countries. The event drew together some of the world’s leading thinkers, local politicians, business people, local government and the community. It was one of the most important events of Newcastle’s bicentenary celebrations and culminated in the Newcastle Declaration committing our city to a sustainable future.

“Gathered at Newcastle, on World Environment Day, 5 June 1997, we acknowledge that in the five years since the Rio Earth Summit much has been learnt about implementing the concept of sustainable development. There is growing evidence, however, that the future of all life on Earth is still in peril. There is an urgent need to accelerate and assist action at all levels, particularly locally, if the global sustainable development objectives of Agenda 21 are to be realised”.

Over the following 20 years we have seen the innovative ClimateCam initiative of the Newcastle City Council, which allowed the public to visualise and thus decrease energy consumption across the city through the ClimateCam billboard ClimateCam in schools program; the Smart Future Cities Program; and the establishment of UN training centre in disaster preparedness CIFAL at the University of Newcastle. World Environment Day on June 5 is a call to arms for the planet to build on these foundations not to let them lie fallow in the archives.

Professor Tim Roberts is the director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle