Balancing academic, clinical and personal lives

Morgan Liotta

16/11/2018 11:49:16 AM

With burnout among general practice registrars an all-too-common issue, Dr Bosco Wu focused his academic research on the risks in medical training.

Dr Bosco Wu found the teaching aspect of his academic post the most rewarding.
Dr Bosco Wu found the teaching aspect of his academic post the most rewarding.

Like many of his peers, Dr Bosco Wu strives to maintain his professional and personal lives, which is one of the reasons he chose to undertake an academic post at Canberra’s Australian National University (ANU) in 2017.
‘When I saw the academic post come up as an option, I thought, “this is awesome”, given the academic, as well as the financial, support I could receive,’ Dr Wu told newsGP.
As it turned out, it was indeed an awesome year and an experience Dr Wu would highly recommend. In particular, he appreciated the opportunity to strike a balance between his academic and clinical work and family life.
‘Because my wife’s also a medical doctor we need to have flexibility,’ he said ‘The other person may also have Fellowship exams and training requirements, and taking on the role as main carer of the family, they’re all things that play into it.
‘I had great academic and financial support [during my post] and it breaks up your heavy load of clinical work.’
Dr Wu also feels the academic post helped set him up for future aspects of his career.
‘A lot of people in this unit are examiners for the RACGP, so you get good support for your exam preparation, you get variety in your week, and you can network with others doing academic posts through opportunities going to conferences,’ he said.
Dr Wu’s complex qualitative research during his academic post year explored how empathy develops through medical training, and how the practise of empathy in the clinical environment may be a protective factor or a risk factor for emotional fatigue and burnout, in a cohort of general practice registrars, hospital registrars and residents.
Dr Wu also won the NSW/ACT Dr Charlotte Hespe Research Award 2017 for his work through GP Synergy.
‘My project was looking at their training experiences and their views on empathy and how it changes throughout the training,’ he said.
Aside from the common theme of burnout, Dr Wu identifies finance and time pressures as other main challenges facing general practice registrars.
‘A lot of trainees may take a pay cut if they go from a resident medical officer year, because you don’t have any of the overtime that you get from a hospital. So most people get a pay cut from training as a GPT1 [general practice term 1],’ he said.
‘On top of that, because there are so many trainees, the minimum conditions are much more common now and the timeframe of increasing from 28 to 38 hours a week over 24 months is quite significant.
‘Basically, you don’t have a lot of other time for paperwork, research, self-care. I think that’s the biggest challenge and they are factors that contribute to burnout.’
Then there’s the personal experiences, such as trying to preserve quality time with family, something that Dr Wu has managed despite his busy work load, with his plans to support his wife through her own medical training.
Meanwhile, he continues to work two days a week at a local practice in Canberra and one day as a staff specialist with the education and training unit at the Canberra Hospital.
‘This is a non-clinical role where I look after the pre-vocational interns and residents, in terms of what they need for accreditation – a kind of administrative and pastoral role,’ he said.
Dr Wu also plans to pick up more academic work, adding a day of medical education at ANU, skills he credits to his time doing the academic post.
‘I enjoyed both parts of the academic post, but the teaching is just more sustainable. It’s less time-consuming, the pay is consistent, the timing is flexible – one or two afternoons a week,’ he said.
‘It’s a good time for someone of my age to do teaching, in my mid-30s with a wife, kids and Fellowship exam. It’s much more manageable.’

academic post doctor burnout general practice registrar

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