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The National Study of Wellbeing of Hospital Doctors in Ireland

Tallaght 2015 3

This national study, launched in 2014, aims to assess the wellbeing of hospital doctors across Ireland and get a deep understanding of what it’s like to work as a hospital doctor in Ireland today.

As well as examining the causes of stress in the workplace, we are collecting data on doctors’ lifestyle choices, interpersonal relationships and rates of mental health problems, including burnout, depression, anxiety and substance misuse.

This study is a collaborative project governed by a multi-stakeholder steering group that includes representatives from the RCPI, RCSI, College of Anaesthetists, College of Psychiatry, Irish Association of Emergency Medicine and Dublin City University (DCU). 

Why It Matters

The physical and mental wellbeing of doctors is important not just to the individual doctor but to wider society.

It is globally documented that doctors have a high prevalence of psychological morbidity and that their working life is stressful. Ireland is no exception. 

To date, there has been a lack of research into the health and wellbeing of doctors in this country, including the challenges posed by stress, mental ill health and addiction.

The results of this study will help guide employer and training body policies on doctors’ mental health.

“As an occupational physician I know first-hand this is a problem because I see it in my practice and I hear it from colleagues in other hospitals too. Frontline healthcare workers and clinicians are presenting with mood disorders and stress-related conditions which are at least in part related to staff shortages and increased working hours.”

Dr Blánaid Hayes

Consultant Occupational Physician, Beaumont Hospital
Doctor working on computer.

Study Methods

This data collection for this study was carried out in three stages.

  1. Delphi study
    A preliminary Delphi study sought opinion on the key stressors for doctors within their particular specialty. A ‘shortlist’ of stressors was incorporated into the main study questionnaire. 
  1. Qualitative data
    Focus groups were held with trainee doctors and consultants to capture qualitative data relating to stressors, coping strategies, how support was accessed when in difficulty, and preferred pathways to care. 
  1. Randomised, cross-sectional questionnaire study
    A national, randomised, cross-sectional questionnaire study was carried out in April 2014. Email and postal surveys were circulated to more than 3,000 doctors in Anaesthesia, Emergency Medicine, all internal medical specialties, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Paediatrics, Surgery, Pathology and Psychiatry.

The questionnaire measured the prevalence of stress, depression, anxiety and burnout. The response rate was 57%.

The responses are currently being analysed and preliminary results should be available in early 2016. 

The third phase of the study is a qualitative research project exploring coping and preferred pathways to care for hospital doctors. 

Meet the Researchers

This project is being led by Dr Blánaid Hayes, Consultant Occupational Physician, Beaumont Hospital and Gillian Walsh, Research Manager, RCPI.

Dr. Blanaid Hayes

Dr. Blanaid Hayes

Consultant Occupational Physician

Gillian Walsh

Manager, Research Department (Currently on maternity leave)

Tel: +353 1 863 9785

Gillian Walsh is the Research Manager at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and is currently completing a PhD on the coping and help-seeking behaviours of hospital doctors. Gillian’s research interests include applied methods focused on improving help-seeking behaviours; the impact of quality improvement in healthcare and predictors of career outcomes of postgraduate medical trainees. Gillian has a grounding in applied physics and, before moving into health psychology and health services research, worked for a number of years in laser materials processing R&D for private industry. Gillian sits on the Joint Executive Committee of the Research Collaborative in Quality and Patient Safety (RCQPS) which is a funding awards collaboration between the HRB and HSE to support emerging research priorities in healthcare quality and patient safety.

Dr Lucia Prihodova

Manager, Research Department

Tel: +353 1 863 9645

Dr Lucia Prihodova is the Research Manager at the at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Lucia’s research focuses on psychosocial, medical and health-care system determinants of long term health outcomes. Lucia has a PhD from the Faculty of Medicine at University of Groningen, Netherlands and is an author and co-author of 15 journal articles in the area of chronic diseases.  

RCPI Research

RCPI Research

Tel: +353 1 836 9700