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National survey sheds new light on ophthalmology training 

Ophthalmology trainees have indicated a high rate of satisfaction with their Vocational Training Program, according to the results of Australia’s first Medical Training Survey, released earlier this month.

Commenting on the findings, RANZCO stated that ophthalmology trainees rated their position at or above national response averages in a number of areas, including recommending their current training position to other doctors, as well as their workplace as a place to train.

The results of the inaugural 2019 Medical Training Survey provide a snapshot of medical training in Australia through the eyes of trainee doctors in order to identify strengths and potential issues.

According to RANZCO, the survey also identified areas where its training can continue to improve. In particular, ophthalmology trainees rated the quality of their orientation at 52%, compared with the national response average of 71%.

In terms of how to raise concerns about patient safety, 58% of ophthalmology trainees rated the quality of their training as good or excellent, below the 75% national average.

According to its statement, RANZCO is actively working towards addressing concerns highlighted in the survey through a curriculum redesign project. It is also using feedback provided by the Australian Medical Council through its accreditation process.

“RANZCO is committed to working with other medical colleges, jurisdictions and both state and federal health departments to address the issues identified in the survey,” a college statement said.

“This will ensure that we not only deliver solutions that benefit ophthalmology trainees, but also contribute to improving the quality of training across the entire Australian medical workforce.”

Working hours under scrutiny

Dr Tony Bartone, president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), echoed the sentiments of RANZCO, saying the survey “revealed that most trainees rated the quality of their training and clinical supervision very highly, and would also recommend their current training post”.

Bartone said the AMA had lobbied for the survey for many years to measure the performance of the nation’s medical training system and identify key areas for improvement.

He said AMA’s advocacy has been justified, with the survey indicating many trainees are still unacceptably experiencing excessive hours, heavy workload, bullying, harassment, or discrimination.

“Safe working hours are still an issue for the profession, with one in eight trainees working at least 60 hours on average per week,” Bartone said.

“This is particularly worrying given the clear recent Australian research showing that doctors in training who work more than 55 hours each week have double the risk of developing mental health problems and suicidal ideation.”

Bartone said the survey also shows the pressure that trainees continue to work under, with half of all trainees who completed the survey considering their workload ‘heavy’ or ‘very heavy’.

“One in five doctors in training felt they had personally experienced bullying, harassment, and/or discrimination in their workplace in the last 12 months.”

Half of the doctors in training surveyed reported they are concerned about their future career, which Bartone said reflects ongoing concerns about a known shortfall in vocational places and the lack of employment opportunities once a college fellowship is obtained in some specialty areas.

The Medical Board of Australia and AHPRA funded the Medical Training Survey, which was run independently by research agency, EY Sweeney. The Medical Board of Australia will conduct the survey on an annual basis.