How to navigate issues around bullying, dealing with authority and living with mental illness while ensuring adequate levels of self-care?
The CMDFA Newcastle chapter is thriving! We are a passionate community of medical students, doctors and dentists seeking to meet regularly to grow and equip ourselves for a lifetime of living for, and serving God in our chosen vocation. CMDFA Newcastle events bring together medical students from the University of Newcastle and University of New England Joint Medical Program as well as health practitioners from many busy private practices and major public hospitals, including Calvary Mater and John Hunter.
In April 2019, more than twenty young people (and a few oldies!) gathered to hear from three local doctors on the theme of Caring for the Carer. Specifically, we wanted to know how to respond to bullying, and also how best to deal with difficult or controversial authority figures while taking care of ourselves, including our mental health.
Newcastle is blessed with many godly and experienced health practitioners. At this particular event, we heard from Dr Christopher Rowe (Endocrinologist), Dr Alison Chandler (Basic Physician Trainee) and Dr Heather Oakley (Psychiatry Advanced Trainee). A typical CMDFA Newcastle event starts with a time of fun and fellowship, followed by talks on a particular topic and then a time of discussion and prayer, and this evening was no exception. Our speakers willingly shared their personal experience of addressing bullying, dealing with conflicts with supervisors and managers in the workplace and managing self-care and mental illness, as well as giving practical advice on how to respond if faced with these situations. (See tips right.)
My own reflection on this theme led me to Matthew 7:4-5 (ESV): “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” While this verse refers specifically to sin, it also seems like an apt reminder of the uncanny ability that most medical and dental professionals have to ignore their own difficulties and health concerns and focus instead on those of others around them. Too often, we want to help others and enthusiastically go out of our way to offer support to our friends, families and patients, to the point where we begin to neglect ourselves. While we are great at giving advice, when we ourselves are faced with situations where we are bullied, have difficult dealings with authority or must confront our own mental illness, we don’t always know how to react in the most godly fashion. Therefore, I encourage you to take some time to read the list below and reflect on your own experience. Pause and take some time to address the logs in your eyes (i.e. unresolved issues with bullying, difficulties with authority in the workplace, self-care and/or mental illness concerns) that may be impacting negatively upon your life, and may in fact also be hindering your ability to care for others.
Dealing with bullying and difficult authority figures
1. Recognise bullying for what it is (defined by many professional organisations, including RACS and RACP).
2. Be humble and respectful at all times.
3. Look to the Bible and pray;
4. Look for opportunities to shine as a light for Jesus.
5. Remember: a rotation where you experience difficulties will only last a certain length of time, and you will move on.
6. Remember others might be suffering as well, so reach out and share.
7. Know who you can talk to in the hospital (JMO Manager, supervisors, Human Resources), professional bodies (AHPRA, training colleges) and outside (family, friends, church community, GP and/or psychologist/ counsellor);
Dealing with Self-Care/ Mental Illness
1. Recognise that illness is part of a fallen world and should be expected.
2. Recognise consequences of fatigue, overwork and mental illness on yourself and others.
3. Recognise your limits for both short- and long-term overload (physically and mentally).
4. Recognise your identity in Christ (not in work) and always be content.
5. Know who to talk to about mental illness:
a. Doctor’s Health Advisory Service – 02 9437 6552 b. GP Mental Health Care Plan – includes access to a community psychologist c. Mental Health Access Line – 1800 011 511.