Understanding the stresses and strains of being a doctor

Geoffrey J Riley
Med J Aust 2004; 181 (7): 350-353.


  • Stress in doctors is a product of the interaction between the demanding nature of their work and their often obsessive, conscientious and committed personalities.

  • In the face of extremely demanding work, a subjective lack of control and insufficient rewards are powerful sources of stress in doctors.

  • If demands continue to rise and adjustments are not made, then inevitably a “correction” will occur, which may take the form of “burnout” or physical and/or mental impairment.

  • Doctors need to reclaim control of their work environment and employers need to recognise the need for doctors to participate in decisions affecting their working lives.

  • All doctors should be aware of predictors of risk and signals of impairment, as well as available avenues of assistance.

  • Relevant medical organisations (eg, the Colleges, hospital administrations, and medical defence organisations) need to develop and rehearse effective response pathways for assisting impaired doctors.

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  • Geoffrey J Riley

  • School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Australia, Fremantle, WA.


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