Medical Trainees In Australia Experience Bullying, Racism, And Discrimination According To New Survey

The latest annual, national survey of Australia’s doctors in training reveals small but worrying signs of pressure on medical training.

The latest annual, national survey of Australia’s doctors in training reveals small but worrying signs of pressure on medical training.

Results of the 2022 Medical Training Survey (MTS) are broadly consistent with previous years, with some small but statistically significant variations in year-on-year results, including an increase in trainee workload, a dip in the quality of teaching, a drop in the number of trainees who would recommend their current training position or organisation and an increase in the number of trainees considering a future outside of medicine.

The MTS is a longitudinal survey, run by the Medical Board of Australia, that tracks feedback about the quality of medical training run in Australia. Stringent privacy controls make it safe and confidential for trainees to take part. 

Each year, more than half Australia’s doctors in training share their insights in the MTS, with results signalling what’s going well in training, and also which issues require further attention.

With a 56% MTS response rate in 2022, the survey generated a robust basis of evidence to inform ongoing improvements in training. Trends are visible early on, enabling close monitoring or swift action by agencies best placed to respond and effect positive change. 

‘The MTS has given us all an important opportunity to listen to and act on the feedback from these trainees, as we move towards providing culturally safe and appropriate medical training and more broadly, culturally safe medical care,’ said Medical Board of Australia Chair, Dr Anne Tonkin.

Dr Tonkin said while there was still a lot going well in medical training, results show some important issues that require attention and some early trends to monitor closely.

“We can all be pleased that Australia continues to deliver high quality medical training, producing doctors who provide high quality medical care to patients in this country, but MTS results suggest that in 2022, things were not quite as good in medical training as they have been in previous years”

Dr Anne Tonkin, Chair of the Medical Board of Australia

“Qualitative research and analysis would be needed to definitively understand the reasons for this, but it is possible that broader, pandemic-related health system pressures are adversely affecting medical training” she further added.

Dr Tonkin said the MTS was proving an invaluable diagnostic tool, shining a light on the state of medical training in Australia. She also singled out the culture of medical training as a continuing concern.

“The culture of medical training needs attention. It is totally unacceptable that 55% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees have experienced and/or witnessed bullying, harassment, discrimination and racism and inexcusable that 34% of all trainees did.”

Dr Anne Tonkin

The source of bullying, harassment, discrimination and racism changed in 2022, with an increase in patients and or family/carers identified as the source of the incident (up from 38% in 2021 to 45% in 2022).

Of those who had experienced bullying, harassment, discrimination and/or racism, 70% did not report it. Of these trainees, 55% were concerned about the repercussions, and 51% said nothing would be done if they did make a report. 

There was a 7% increase (to 53%) in the number of trainees who rated their workload as significantly heavy since the pandemic started in 2020. On the upside, this year’s results reveal an increase in the number of trainees getting paid for their overtime. 

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact on training in most areas, but slightly differently from the previous year. In 2022, workload and training progression were adversely affected, while exam preparation and training opportunities were largely impacted in 2021.

Read SPA+CLINIC’s latest issue here:

There are 5 ways you can catch up with SPA+CLINIC

  1. Our quarterly print magazine, delivered to your door. Subscribe here.
  2. Our website, which is updated daily with its own completely unique content and breaking news.
  3. Our weekly newsletter – free to your inbox! Subscribe here.
  4. Our digital magazine – click here to view previous issues.
  5. Our social media – see daily updates on our InstagramFacebook Linkedin

Recommended Articles