The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists has launched a review of its guidelines on fatigue to address the growing issue of doctor burnout.
Hospitals have been put on notice about doctor burnout and told the workplace culture has to change.
Stress, burnout, fatigue and the working hours of doctors and medical specialists are in the spotlight at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists' annual scientific meeting of local and international anaesthetists in Sydney.
According to visiting US Professor Karen Domino, half of all US physicians in nearly 30 medical specialties claim to be "burned out", while about 60 per cent are considering leaving the profession because of the issue.
The figures would be very similar among Australian doctors, Professor Domino warned.
Hospital doctors aren't bullet-proof and workplace culture must change, Professor Domino says.
"Many doctors in hospitals are under extreme stress, seeing patients every five minutes," she said.
"Hospitals and departments need to think about how they can prevent burnout for their staff and think about how they can change the hospital environment to make it less stressful," she said.
So concerned about the issue of burnout and the high suicide rates among doctors, ANZCA president David Scott revealed on Tuesday he had launched a review of 10-year-old guidelines on fatigue to ensure anaesthetists had adequate rest and effective breaks between shifts.
Professor Scott says the days of doctors working 72 hours straight have gone and he wants to provide medicos with an evidence-based "toolkit" on how to manage fatigue.
"We need to recognise that healthy doctors provide safer medical care," Professor Scott said.
"Yes we are putting the hospital system on notice because this is important, this is about safe health delivery and the evidence is out there; the tired, stressed, burnt-out doctors deliver less effective health care and their are more adverse outcomes and patient complaints," he said.
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