A National Study of Wellbeing of Hospital Doctors in Ireland
The working environment for hospital doctors in Ireland has undergone radical change in recent years with hospital posts becoming unattractive to doctors in training and to consultants. For young medical graduates, the tensions between training requirements and service demands have contributed to a ‘brain drain’ with over half leaving to work abroad after graduation. Many consultant posts are vacant or are filled on a temporary basis, impacting on the quality of patient care.
This study sets out to fill a gap in the Irish literature by exploring the topic of wellbeing in hospital doctors. It is a mixed method study using both qualitative and quantitative techniques.
The first research question (what are the most significant workplace stressors to which hospital doctors in the Irish public hospital setting are exposed?) was explored using the Delphi methodology. This allowed individual opinion from a geographically dispersed population to be gathered efficiently and transformed into consensus. This study found that senior doctors and doctors in training are concerned about issues impacting on the quality of patient care and both feel undervalued in the work that they do. Consultants also express concern about the quality of healthcare management while trainees struggle with the impact of training and service delivery on their personal lives.
The second research question (what is the level of wellbeing in hospital doctors in Ireland?) used a standard quantitative methodology to determine levels of personal wellbeing, workplace wellbeing and lifestyle behaviours. The survey had a national scope and a response rate of 55%. Respondents had a high prevalence of psychological distress and low levels of wellbeing as measured by standard instruments, as well as evidence of poor workplace wellbeing. Cluster analysis identified that both consultants and trainees with a negative experience of work had high levels of emotional exhaustion, overcommitment and effort–reward imbalance. They rated their workability levels as insufficient and had poor work-life balance. They were more likely to be physically inactive then their more contented colleagues.