Featured Research

How do we keep our doctors well?

20 July 2022

The wellbeing of doctors is seen as a major health care priority in Australia but there is currently little understanding of how our General Practitioners (GPs) keep themselves well.

A new Life Course Centre-supported study aims to address this gap by investigating what determines, and what can improve, the wellbeing of Australia’s GPs. It finds that GPs have complex, interconnected determinants of wellbeing that require systemic change to address.

Led by researchers at The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health, the study was based on in-depth interviews with Australian GPs from a range of clinical settings, both urban and rural. The GPs, representing diverse levels of experience and work arrangements, were interviewed in online recordings between March and September 2021. GPs were questioned on their views and experiences regarding determinants of their own wellbeing whereby five key themes emerged: identity/self, organisation, profession, system, and finances.

“To prioritise Australian GPs’ wellbeing, we need to understand the full breadth of determinants – both enablers and barriers – of wellbeing and how they interplay,” said lead author Diana Naehrig.

“Determinants of wellbeing were mostly underpinned by GPs’ sense of identity. They were able to identify enablers of wellbeing at a personal and practice level, such as self-care, social connection and peer support. But barriers to wellbeing were consistently identified at a systematic level notably insufficient valuation and remuneration.”

“To move beyond individual wellbeing interventions, this suggests organisational, professional and systemic structures need to be targeted. This will require advocacy, commitment, funding and careful planning by professional bodies, organisations and policy makers, in collaboration with GPs.”

Professor Nick Glozier, a Life Course Centre Chief Investigator, said the wellbeing of GPs must be clearly defined, and distinguished from burnout and mental ill health, in order to design and assess effective interventions.

“This study addresses an important knowledge gap by applying a positive psychology lens to what determines GPs’ wellbeing,” he said.

“It shows that GPs balance complex and interconnected determinants of wellbeing. However, GPs’ personal finances and funding structures, in particular, are important moderators and need to be major considerations for prioritising, promoting and supporting wellbeing and a sustainable primary care workforce.”

This study was authored by Diana Naehrig, Nick Glozier, Christiane Klinner, Ian Hickie and Alyssa Milton of The University of Sydney in collaboration with GP Louise Acland and health care manager Brendan Goodger.

Contact: Diana Naehrig, Email: dnae2050@uni.sydney.edu.au

Go to full article: ‘Determinants of wellbeing and their interconnections in Australian general practitioners—a qualitative study’ BMJ Open.