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AMA in-step with doctors-in-training

For DiTs as for other members, the need for workplace advice or assistance can arise when you least expect it, writes Senior Industrial Relations Adviser Andrew Lewis.

It would be easy for some doctor-in-training (DiT) members to think that the purpose of AMA Victoria is only to advise on pay and conditions, or to act as a last-resort point of contact for crisis resolution. As a DiT, you may not see any need for AMA Victoria’s services in the day-to-day issues you face in your workplace.

However, your professional organisation is here for you now – not just when things have reached a crisis. Indeed, by using AMA Victoria as a first point of advice covering the gambit of your professional and educational journey, you may avoid finding yourself at crisis point altogether.

Professionals in any field should always seek workplace or career advice to make early decisions that best serve their own interests. In that light, AMA Victoria’s suite of member advice and advocacy services can be understood to be essential.

Where we can help

During presentations throughout the 2013 Health Service Intern orientation week, AMA Victoria put it to the audience that some of them would not achieve their core term requirements, for all sorts of unpredictable reasons. It’s easy to think, “it won’t happen to me”, but already this year we have actively represented three intern members whose careers became jeopardised.

After seeking our advice and representation, many DiT members have been surprised to realise that the issue they confronted was not, as they had thought, just a time “inconvenience” or “not that serious”. In fact, it is not uncommon for AMA Victoria to receive calls for assistance and end up advising a member that their concern is based on a misperception on their part, or their misreading of rights and obligations. In such cases, many who seek advice are unknowingly confronting matters that, while rectifiable, place their reputation and potentially their career on the line, or which may cause them substantial financial loss.

Risks to your career may come from where you least expect it. As an example, in recent months we have acted for DiT members facing final warnings, even termination, because of blog entries, texts or Facebook postings they made that were in breach of hospital policy. It is important to remember that with increasing use of social media, our perceptions regarding what is professional behaviour need to evolve. Without reflecting on their online output, some DiTs are at genuine risk of affecting their registration or employment by using social media inappropriately. (A useful document on using social media as a doctor is Social Media and the Medical Profession: a guide to online professionalism for medical practitioners and medical students, put together by the AMA Council of DiT, the New Zealand Medical Association DiT Council, the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association and the Australian Medical Students’ Association.)

How we can help

DiT members should have no concern about using AMA Victoria’s services, as contact is confidential, there will be no action taken without the member’s agreement and in most cases the situation is resolved quickly and without controversy.

They should also be reassured that most individuals’ experiences are not unique, and tend to be replicated across the public health system. Often we can de-stress a member simply by telling them that they are not “the only one”.

Hearing they are not alone can be particularly reassuring to members who are affected by bullying or harassment and may be feeling powerless or isolated. Members should be aware that as well as impacting the recipient’s health and career, bullying behaviour is illegal. AMA Victoria has no tolerance for bullying behaviour, no matter who the perpetrator may be.

Experience does count

The main advantage to using AMA Victoria’s services are the years of experience and expertise staff have as a result of dealing with a wealth of DiT issues, many of which we encounter over and over again. Although a particular workplace issue or grievance may seem straightforward, DiTs should appreciate that “common” sense does not always equip us with the competencies and knowledge to self-advocate, or objectively analyse circumstance and law.

Some situations where our specialised knowledge has helped DiTs in the past include:

  • dealing with AMA DiT Agreement compliance
  • enforcing general rights and entitlements
  • seeking to guarantee procedural fairness
  • delivering accurate and effective defence when interacting with health service or medical college management or performance procedures
  • understanding rights and effectively defending against a college process related to failed assessment, term dis-accreditation or alleged breach of rules (by the trainee or the college)
  • providing insight to enable behavioural adjustment, defining reasonableness, managing expectations and crystallising issues
  • accessing pastoral care because of mental health or other illness/injury disrupting training progression, or career disappointment.

AMA Victoria is continually working to identify emerging trends in the issues that DiTs face in the workplace. We are available for immediate advice and action on site. AMA Victoria is at the service of its members: use it.

For advice and support, contact the AMA Victoria Workplace and Advocacy unit, on (03) 9280 8722.

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