The health of both medical students and medical school staff is a priority for Medical Deans and its members.
Studies have highlighted that medical students have high levels of stress, burnout and psychological distress compared to other professional groups. In response to these findings, Medical Deans established a Student Health Committee in 2017. This transitioned to become the Student and Staff Support Committee (SSSC) at the end of 2021, as it became clear that medical school staff, as well as students, were struggling with the additional workload, stress and disruptions caused by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SSSC provides a forum for medical schools to collaborate together and with student leads on best practice approaches to improving the health of students and staff, including developing evidence-based strategies and sharing ideas, experiences and resources. The committee includes Deans, academic leads and student support professionals, as well as the President and Vice President of the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) and the President of the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA).
Work of the Committee
Since its inception, the committee has:
- Developed and released the 2021 paper Creating a Culture of Support – for medical students and graduates transitioning to practice, highlighting the importance of a healthy workplace for healthcare workers where students and graduates feel safe in sharing information about their support needs with their employers when they transition to practice. This will be an area of ongoing work for Medical Deans.
- Initiated a series of stories titled Turning the Tide of Bullying and Harassment, profiling some of the anti-bullying programs implemented by member schools and exploring how well they are working. Students play a vital role in the co-design of these strategies, and establishing accessible, trusted reporting pathways are core to their effectiveness.
- Jointly with AMSA, presented a webinar on students’ experiences of undertaking mental health first aid training, and schools’ programs to combat bullying and harassment. The webinar focused on how primary medical education programs can connect and contribute to the recently released doctor/student national wellbeing framework, Every Doctor, Every Setting.
- Hosted a webinar given by Professor Helen Christensen (from the Black Dog Institute) which discussed research trials and translational research to better understand how to prevent the onset and severity of anxiety, depression and suicidal behaviour among the health workforce, with a specific focus on junior doctors and medical staff
- Shared examples of successful practices of support services for medical students across the network of Australian and New Zealand medical schools
- Provided feedback to the Consensus Statement on Medical Student Wellbeing published in March 2019.