An apple a day keeps the doctor A-OK
Last month Royal Prince Alfred Hospital launched a Protected Lunch Break initiative for Doctors in Training to help support junior doctors in taking a 30minute meal break.
The initiative is part of the MDOK Program and followed a successful pilot program in the cardiology ward earlier in the year.
“We have the best job in the world. We come to work every single day to look after the needs of others,” RPA’s Medical Superintendent, Dr Erin Vaughn said.
“But the reality is, the work we do is often physically and emotionally demanding and we don’t take a break.”
The Protected Lunch Break initiative came about following discussions with trainees at the Chief Executive Doctors in Training Committee. Here, junior doctors expressed their tendency to put patients’ needs before their own.
“Up to half of our staff reported they go an entire 14 hour shift without having a meal and without even nourishing their brains,” Dr Vaughn said.
“In fact, studies have shown us that patients in intensive care units have better urine outputs than the doctors that are looking after them!”
Being in a state of dehydration and starvation has been associated with impaired neurological function, information processing and memory.
“To put it simply, our ability to make good decisions under pressure is compromised when we don’t eat or drink regularly.”
The Doctors in Training also expressed that, aside from the guilt factor, one of the major barriers to taking a lunch break was the constant interruption from pagers for non-urgent clinical tasks and consultants ward rounding during lunch times.
“Rather than seeing nutrition as an important part of performing at their best, it was seen as a guilty luxury that could wait until all chores had been done,” said Dr Bethan Richards, Chief Medical Wellness Officer.
During the launch of the Protected Lunch Break initiative across RPA, a series of campaign messages in the form of posters and memos were issued aimed at both Doctors in Training and also support staff, asking that only emergency calls are made during the hours of 12pm-1pm.
In addition, a daily message from the switch is being sent out advising staff that the protected lunch break has begun.
So far, the feedback from the Doctors in Training is that they feel valued when asked if they had taken a lunch break and that a sense of community was created when nurses and ward clerks were looking out for them.
“We want to promote that community culture and sense of kindness and compassion for not only patients, but for one another,” Dr Richards said.
“The plan is to now extend the Protected Lunch Break initiative across the entire District.”