Australia's first Chief Medical Wellness Officer appointed
Dr Bethan Richards' to lead MDOK program supporting the wellbeing of junior doctors
Sydney Local Health District has appointed Australia’s first Chief Medical Wellness Officer to drive cultural and systemic change in health, and reduce stress and burnout among junior and senior doctors.
Dr Bethan Richards, the head of rheumatology at RPA and the deputy director of the District’s Institute of Musculoskeletal Health, has been leading RPA’s pilot wellbeing program for basic physician trainees (BPTOK) since 2017.
That program was recently awarded $210,000 in funding from NSW Health as part of the JMO Be Well program and will now be rolled out to all doctors across RPA, Concord, Canterbury and Balmain hospitals.
The new program, branded MDOK, will teach all medical staff the skills to care for their own health, manage traumatic events and mentor younger staff, in addition to attending workshops and sessions on goal-setting, relaxation, stress management, clinical debriefing, nutrition and exercise.
Dr Richards, the only non-American invited to attend Stanford University’s inaugural chief medical wellness officer course in California last year, will also head up Australia’s first Wellness Centre for doctors based on the Stanford model.
This model will provide immediate support to those in need while effecting more long-term change.
“I feel incredible honoured and am so proud that our organisation has prioritised and invested in addressing medical officer wellbeing,” Dr Richards said.
“With more than 50 per cent of our junior and senior medical staff suffering from symptoms of burnout, we need a multifaceted coordinated approach if we are going to be able to support our front line staff, while at the same time, effecting culture and systemic change.
“This model gives us a real chance at doing this,” she said.
“We need to foster a sense of community and belonging, make our staff fell valued, focus on reducing inefficient processes, offer a menu of options to support staff with different needs and put real time monitoring in place to evaluate what we are doing.
“The widespread rollout of MDOK will allow us to support our frontline staff while strengthening our existing platform to effect real change.”
Dr Richards joins Nicolas Yu, who has been delivering wellness programs to our nursing staff for several years.
The launch of MDOK will be held at RPA on February 26.