Medical training impact by COVID-19 in 2021


The COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected medical training in the states and territories worst hit by the pandemic and had a mixed impact in other states and territories, according to the 2021 Medical Training Survey (MTS).

The 2021 MTS results are broadly consistent with previous years and while there is a lot going well in medical training, there are some important issues that require attention. Again in 2021, medical trainees called out workplace culture as a serious issue, and disappointingly, this has not improved this year.

More than 21,000 trainees did the 2021 MTS – the annual, national profession-wide survey of medical training designed to give trainees a voice on medical training, to inform continuous improvement. The 55 per cent survey response rate has generated a solid evidence base and a robust national dataset that will continue to shape improvements to training.

The MTS is funded by the Medical Board of Australia and developed collaboratively with stakeholders including doctors in training. It is safe and confidential for doctors in training to take part and runs annually in August/September.

The Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, Dr Anne Tonkin, said the MTS results gave insights into the quality of training and the culture of medicine and thanked all doctors in training who made time to do the 2021 MTS.

“Year on year, MTS results are showing there’s a lot going well in medical training in Australia. But some small changes in 2021, which may relate to the impact of the pandemic, warrant close attention in the years ahead,” Dr Tonkin said.

2021 MTS results show:

  • all aspects of the quality of supervision have improved since 2020 and trainees report receiving more regular and more useful feedback, both formal and informal. 100% of trainees had a supervisor, 94% received an orientation and 80% would recommend their current training position to other trainees
  • 45% of trainees said they ‘never/sometimes’ got paid for un-rostered overtime, and 49% rated their workload as heavy/very heavy
  • no improvement (35%) in the percentage of trainees reporting that they had experienced and/or witnessed bullying, harassment and/or discrimination (including racism) in training
  • the most common sources of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination were senior medical staff (experienced=51%, witnessed=54%), nurses/midwives (experienced=36%, witnessed=41%) and patients/carers/families (experienced=36%, witnessed=38%)
  • 67% of trainees who experienced bullying, harassment and/or discrimination did not report the incident and only 58% of trainees who reported it were satisfied with the follow-up, and
  • a clear link between unprofessional behaviours and medical training, with 38% of trainees who experienced bullying, discrimination and/or harassment reporting moderate or major adverse impacts on their training.

“Disturbingly, there is a significant and unacceptable difference in the incidence of these issues reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in training. Racism in healthcare is never acceptable and we all have to do better,” Dr Tonkin said.

Results show that 52% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees reported experiencing and/or witnessing bullying, harassment and/or discrimination (compared with 35% of trainees nationally), and of those experiencing bullying, harassment and or discrimination, 49% reported a moderate or major impact on their training (compared with 38% nationally).

More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees who experienced these unprofessional behaviours reported the issue (43% compared with 33% nationally).

Agencies across the healthcare sector are using MTS results to improve medical training.

All MTS results are available online through the data dashboard published on the website.

The Medical Board of Australia encourages everyone interested in medical training to access and read the MTS results, create their own tailored report using the interactive data dashboard, and apply the rich MTS dataset to continually improve medical training.

About the MTS

The Medical Training Survey (MTS) is a national, annual, profession-wide survey of all doctors in training in Australia. It is safe and confidential for doctors in training to take part. The MTS asks doctors in training about their experience of medical training - across curriculum, workplace environment and culture, workload, training and educational opportunities and overall satisfaction. In 2021 there were questions about the impact of COVID-19 on training.

The MTS is run by the Medical Board of Australia and Aphra and was developed collaboratively with doctors in training, specialist medical colleges, jurisdictions, postgraduate medical councils, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, Australian Medical Council, Australian Medical Association, NSW Medical Council, Doctors’ Health Services and other stakeholders.

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