Dr Roger Sexton
Medical Director, Doctors' Health SA (DHSA)

Published June 2016

  1. Clod D, 2004, The Conspiracy of Silence: Emotional health among medical practitioners, Royal College of General Practitioners, South Melbourne.
  2. Kay M, Mitchell G et al. What Doctors want? A consultation method when the patient is a doctor. Australian Journal of Primary Health 16(1) 52-59, March 2010.
Healthcare for doctors

The training of all doctors is a long and intensive process. As medical training progresses, so do expectations of greater self-reliance, resilience and the ability to work long hours under duress. Success in certain career paths can be conditional upon these expectations being met.

Doctors are widely regarded as being so well-connected, well-resourced, educated and self-sufficient that easy access to health care is a ‘given’. However, the opposite can be true.

A significant proportion of doctors are unable to find a ‘good’ GP easily or feel comfortable in the patient role.

Interestingly, most doctors are easily deterred from associating with a struggling colleague who may be very reluctant to ask for help. They may feel unable to assist or unwilling to become involved in a complicated case with medico-legal implications. A ‘conspiracy of silence’ can ensue1.

Doctors can also be quite conflicted in circumstances where they share on call rosters and financial responsibilities to a partnership or work in association in adjacent rural areas.

In addition, some segments within the profession have come to doubt the ability of some primary care doctors to adequately care for other doctors and in doing so, have overlooked the many benefits of having a skilled General Practitioner. It is worthwhile re-considering what these benefits are.

Benefits of your own GP

  1. Advocacy in the health system
  2. Independent referral networks
  3. Continuing, comprehensive and impartial medical care
  4. Preventative care
  5. Recall systems
  6. A comprehensive medical record
  7. Phone advice
  8. A trusted confidant

It is very comforting to be cared for by a competent, caring and thorough medical professional.

Our patients love it and so it is not surprising that doctors want what patients want – a patient-centric, empathetic, unhurried clinical experience2. The key ingredients to this are the application of professionalism, clinical skill and thoroughness through a good history and targeted clinical examination, the use of appropriate special tests, education and follow up.

It is important for doctor patients to facilitate the consultation and assist their doctor to do their job.

It is also important that primary care doctors provide the best professional care to medical colleagues in the formal setting of their practices in such a way to optimise the mutual doctor-patient experience.

Treating others as you would want to be treated yourself is timeless advice.