Improving the mental health of doctors working in hospitals

Giving patients at Flinders Medical Centre the best care possible has always been the top priority. But new research is now focusing on better caring for those they depend on – the doctors. 

Flinders University Professor Paul Ward has been awarded a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant to survey doctors working across different wards and areas at Flinders Medical Centre to better understand ‘psychosocial hazards’ that present risks to their mental health. These hazards arise because of the way doctors’ work is designed and coordinated.

Prof Ward said it was important to understand the psychosocial climate in hospitals and identify these hazards so they can be modified, and effective policies, procedures, practices and preventions put in place to protect doctor’s mental health.

It is hoped this project will lead to improving organisational and professional culture to protect the mental health of doctors, which will improve medical workforce stability in areas of workforce shortage, improve doctors’ capacity to practice high quality medicine, improve retention, and stabilise hospital services which will ultimately improve outcomes for patients.

Between 2001-12, 79 doctors committed suicide in Australia. 

A national survey found that doctors have a higher risk of psychological distress and suicide than other professionals and the general population, with other mental health conditions such as burnout, depression and anxiety also common.

More mentally healthy doctors should lead to better patient care and patient outcomes.


Project title: Identifying the links between the psychosocial safety climate of hospitals and the mental health of doctors. 

Lead researcher: Professor Paul Ward

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