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About our Physician Wellbeing programme

Physician Wellbeing has long been a high priority in RCPI

Physician Wellbeing has been a high priority issue within RCPI for many years, as we know that doctors who enjoy good mental health and are ‘engaged’ achieve better patient outcomes.

As a profession, doctors experience higher than average rates of burnout, depression, anxiety, substance abuse problems, dysfunctional relationships and physical hazards. The wellbeing of an individual doctor, aside from being desirable in its own right, is essential in maintaining high standards and safety in medicine.

Through our Physician Wellbeing programme we have been providing support, training and information about health and wellbeing to doctors since 2014.

We are committed to pursuing innovative approaches to support the health of doctors and raising awareness of the importance of caring for the care givers.

Meet our Director of Health and Wellbeing

Professor Gaye Cunnane was appointed to the role of Director of Health and Wellbeing in RCPI in April 2019.

She is responsible for overseeing initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of our Trainers and Trainees. This includes providing oversight for complex cases relating to the health and wellbeing of RCPI Trainees. She works closely with our Deans and National Specialty Directors on decisions relating to health and wellbeing of individuals. 

Gaye Cunnane, PhD, MB, FRCPI, is a Clinical Professor of Rheumatology, and a Consultant Rheumatologist at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and St James’s Hospital.

After graduation from medical school in TCD, she completed her basic clinical training in Medicine and then undertook PhD studies at University College Dublin and St Vincent’s University Hospital, where she investigated serological and tissue prognostic markers in early inflammatory arthritis, in collaboration with universities in Switzerland, (Zurich), The Netherlands (Leiden), the UK (Cambridge) and Sweden (Karolinska, Stockholm). She then completed a 3 year clinical and research Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, USA – the focus of her research there was on new treatments for lupus.

In 2001, she moved to the UK as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds, and in 2003 returned to Ireland to take up her current post.

She was the National Specialty Director for Rheumatology training in Ireland from 2005 – 2012, Programme Director for Basic Specialist Training with RCPI from 2009 – 2017 and is a past President of the Irish Society for Rheumatology.

Her recent research interests have focused on lifestyle risks in the rheumatic diseases.

Professor Gaye Cunnane

About the RCPI Health and Wellbeing Department

Our Health and Wellbeing Department was officially launched in October 2019 to enhance Trainee and Trainer wellbeing within RCPI.

Our mission is to help doctors enhance their wellbeing and professional conduct throughout their working lives. We will do this by promoting better training practices and providing support for doctors who need it.

This department provides support and referral pathways for Trainees who are struggling to meet the training requirements or reach the competencies required for reasons related to their health or overall performance. We want to be actively involved in early identification and prevention, the promotion of wellbeing, and strategic planning and collaboration within this area.

The department is staffed by a full-time psychologist, Hadas Levy B.A. Psychology, M.Sc. Counselling Psychology, with administrative support. Our programme of work includes:

  • Developing new courses and workshops, specially tailored for doctors, to help them manage stress and workplace challenges
  • Publishing up-to-date advice and resources to help doctors manage their mental health and wellbeing
  • Providing expert advice and one-to-one professional support to doctors experiencing mental health difficulties
  • Developing policies and procedures for training sites regarding physician wellbeing, with an emphasis on early intervention and red flags for referral
  • Acting as a point of contact for doctors who feel they require additional support while in training, including those who have received a diagnosis of mental illness
  • Informing and influencing national workforce policies on physician wellbeing
  • Advocating for increased funding of physician wellbeing initiatives

The Health and Wellbeing Department is happy to hear from trainees who are in difficulty. They can self-refer by emailing Wellbeing@rcpi.ie

What is wellbeing?

Wellbeing relates to your physical, social and mental state. Our wellbeing depends on six main domains:

  1. Economic resources
  2. Work and participation
  3. Relationships and care
  4. Community and environment
  5. Health
  6. Democracy and values

Wellbeing requires that basic needs are met, that you have a sense of purpose, and that you feel able to achieve important goals, to participate in society and to live the life you value and have reason to value.

Your wellbeing is enhanced by conditions that include financial and personal security, meaningful and rewarding work, supportive personal relationships, strong and inclusive communities, good health, a healthy and attractive environment (to live and work in) and values of democracy and social justice.

WHY DOES PHYSICIAN WELLBEING MATTER?

The evidence is clear: Doctors who enjoy good mental health and are ‘engaged’ achieve better patient outcomes. The wellbeing of an individual doctor, aside from being desirable in its own right, is essential in maintaining high standards and safety in medicine.

Doctors are not immune to illness and mental distress. Some studies even suggest that doctors are more prone to mental ill health than the general population.

In Ireland, doctors are becoming more vocal about the high prevalence of mental health disorders in the profession and the challenging working conditions that contribute to this.

The importance of self-care is evidenced by the fact that the Medical Council has referenced it in its three pillars of professionalism.

Our advice to doctors

We recommend that you take note of the advice and resources on these web pages. We are committed to supporting physician wellbeing throughout doctors’ working lives and this web resource is designed to help you look after your own wellbeing.

We advise you to monitor your physical and emotional wellbeing, and to seek assistance early if you have any concerns or feel you are experiencing significant stress. It is important to adhere to the medical advice and management plans of doctors who treat you. You have a responsibility to yourself, your family, your patients and the healthcare system to take good care of your health.

Being a patient can be difficult for doctors. Likewise, caring for other doctors requires particular sensitivity and skill. Doctors who treat other doctors might make assumptions about the doctor patient’s knowledge and might ask them to organise and interpret their own investigations.

We encourage doctors to provide support and assistance to colleagues in a confidential, sensitive and professional manner. This means reiterating the importance of the GP role, ensuring it is not by-passed and discouraging the casual or ‘corridor consultation’.

Our Physician Health and Wellbeing Booklet

Download our useful handbook for all the information doctors need.

Contact us

RCPI Physician Wellbeing Programme

Tel: +353 1 863 9700

Through our Physician Wellbeing programme we are providing support, training and information to doctors at all stages of their careers.

Hadas Levy

Manager, Health and Wellbeing Department

Tel: 01 863 9705

Hadas Levy B.A. Psychology, M.Sc. Counselling Psychology manages the RCPI Health and Wellbeing Office.

Professor Gaye Cunnane

Director of Health and Wellbeing

Gaye Cunnane, PhD, MB, FRCPI, is Director of Health and Wellbeing at RCPI. As Director of Health and Wellbeing, Professor Cunnane is responsible for overseeing initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of RCPI Trainers and Trainees. She is also a Clinical Professor of Rheumatology and a Consultant Rheumatologist at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and St James’s Hospital. After graduation from medical school in TCD, she completed her basic clinical training in Medicine and then undertook PhD studies at University College Dublin and St Vincent’s University Hospital, where she investigated serological and tissue prognostic markers in early inflammatory arthritis, in collaboration with universities in Switzerland, (Zurich), The Netherlands (Leiden), the UK (Cambridge) and Sweden (Karolinska, Stockholm). She then completed a 3 year clinical and research Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, USA – the focus of her research there was on new treatments for lupus. In 2001, she moved to the UK as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds, and in 2003 returned to Ireland to take up her current post. She was the National Specialty Director for Rheumatology training in Ireland from 2005 – 2012, Programme Director for Basic Specialist Training with RCPI from 2009 – 2017 and is a past President of the Irish Society for Rheumatology. Her recent research interests have focused on lifestyle risks in the rheumatic diseases.