Trainee Solutions

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Job burnout is a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.

Is it stress or burnout?

We can think of stress as ‘too much’ and burnout as ‘not enough’.

Stress Burnout
Over-engagement Disengagement
Emotions are over-reactive Emotions are blunted
Produces urgency and hyperactivity Produces helplessness and hopelessness
Leads to anxiety disorders Leads to detachment and depression
Primary damage is physical Primary damage is emotional
May kill you prematurely May make you feel that life is not worth living

 

Burnout is a gradual process that occurs over extended time. Contributing factors include lack of balance between career, study and personal activities; problems with relationships with senior colleagues; and fear of making mistakes.

To prevent burnout, learn how to set boundaries. Connect with professional networks but don’t let your work become your whole life.

Beating burnout:

  • Recognise – Watch for the warning signs of burnout (self-doubt, constant tiredness, detachment, job dissatisfaction, irritability)
  • Reverse – Undo the damage by managing contributing factors and/or seeking support
  • Resilence – Build your resilience to stress by practicing self-care and working with a mentor

Self-care is about self-preservation:

  • Enjoy simple pleasure
  • Learn to RELAX
  • Be good to yourself!
  • Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More, More Often

Resources:

Read more about burnout, how to spot it and take action.

Useful self-care assessment and resources may be found here.

Who can you call upon?

  • Trusted colleague and/or peer
  • Mentor
  • General Practitioner
  • Network Coordinator
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Doctors Health Advisory Service (DHAS) Australia and New Zealand
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist

See also:

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All trainees, pending and new fellows can benefit from the assistance of a mentor when planning a career path and transitioning into positions of greater responsibility.

Specialist and Fellowship positions are advertised on the RCPA website when the College is aware of them. A list of positions available may be found here.

Please note that not every available position is advertised, and often the best way to find out about jobs is to ask around amongst senior colleagues or visit specific websites, particularly at the institutions where you would like to work.

See also:

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The College communicates with trainees in several ways:

Email

The College keeps Trainees informed by email and communicates using their preferred email address. Important announcements for trainees will be sent directly via email.

To ensure that you receive all relevant communications from the College you must provide the College with a valid and current email address. You can update your details online here or please contact reception at reception@rcpa.edu.au or via the switchboard on 61 2 8356 5858.

Trainee handbooks

The administrative and discipline-specific trainee handbooks are the main references for training requirements. They are updated every year and trainees are advised to check the College website for the current version at the beginning of each year.

Pathology Today

Trainees receive the fortnightly College newsletter, Pathology Today, which includes general announcements from the College and notice of scientific meetings.

Website

Trainees have password protected access to the RCPA website, which holds curriculum documents, forms, past examination papers, course notes, electronic pathology resources, discussion forums etc.

The RCPA website has a trainee section, which can be accessed from the home page.

Pathology Journal

All trainees have full-text access to the RCPA scientific journal, Pathology

If you are having difficulty receiving any of these communications, please contact rcpa@rcpa.edu.au.

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Trainees may access various avenues for making informal or formal complaints depending on the nature of the problem. Confidentiality is of the utmost importance.

Employer

Workplace issues should be addressed through your employer in the first instance. The RCPA can only intervene in the workplace if the matter directly concerns or impacts on training, or if there is a patient safety issue involving a trainee.

The College

Formal complaints concerning the College’s internal or external activities and relationships are covered by RCPA policy on Complaints Handling.

The College has a policy regarding complaints in relation to examinations which states that complaints in relation to examination processes or results must be lodged with the Board of Education and Assessment Registrar within two months of the examination.

Trainees’ Committee

Complaints of a non-personal nature concerning training, education and assessment may be lodged through the Trainees’ Committee.

Ombudsman

Serious unresolved disputes may be addressed from a neutral, independent viewpoint through the RCPA Ombudsman who will act in accordance with the RCPA document setting out the Roles and Responsibilities of the Ombudsman for Trainees. College ombudsmen are appointed for Australia and New Zealand. The ombudsman is to be consulted only when a reasonable effort has been made to resolve the problem through normal processes and it still is not resolved. The ombudsman will not have the authority to reverse decisions but may recommend that a decision be reconsidered or that a course of action be taken to bring about changes that will help prevent future problems. Trainees wishing to contact the ombudsman may do so through the State Councillor or College office on bea@rcpa.edu.au or phone +61 2 8356 5825.

See also:

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The RCPA is committed to the principle that all stakeholders engaged in the activities of the College have the right to attend to College business, train and/or work within an environment free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, bullying, vilification, and victimisation.

For trainees, if conduct within the scope of the Policy on Anti-Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying 12/1999 occurs in their place of work, complaints about that conduct will likely be most appropriately handled within the organisation for whom they work.

The College maintains a register of complaints that it receives in relation to discrimination and harassment. The register is strictly confidential to the Chief Executive Officer, Registrar to the Board of Education and Assessment and the Education Advisor. The CEO will ensure that all matters will be managed promptly and confidentially in accordance with legal requirements.

Who can you call upon?

  • Employer Human Resources department
  • Departmental head
  • Trusted colleague and/or peer
  • Mentor
  • Supervisor
  • Network Coordinator
  • State or Regional Councillor or Representative
  • Education Advisor
  • RCPA CEO or Deputy CEO

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Welfare Special Interest Group has published a helpful guide for trainees:

RD 22 Bullying and Harassment 2011

See also:

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Meetings, courses and workshops

The College hosts several meetings suitable for Trainees on a regular or ad hoc basis. Details of educational programs are notified in Pathology Today and on the RCPA website under the Events section.

Pathology Update, held annually, is the College’s annual scientific meeting. The Update program has streams for each discipline and components specifically for trainees, including sessions in which the Chief/Principal Examiners in each discipline discuss their approaches to the examination process and review the previous year’s exams.

Other educational programs may be organised by the State and New Zealand Education Committees or by training institutions. For further details, Trainees are advised to contact their State or Regional Councillor or visit the College’s website. Network coordinators or the Education Advisor can advise about network-based programs.

Enquiries about courses may be directed to courses@rcpa.edu.au.

Trainee induction

New trainees are strongly encouraged to attend either their training network arranged induction programs or the Trainee Induction session at Pathology Update. Induction programs outline the RCPA education programs and requirements and provide an opportunity to meet College officials and staff and to network with other trainees. Trainees will be informed of local induction sessions in their discipline.

Online resources

The College website includes many education resources including virtual microscopy and other case studies, educational modules, lectures and lecture notes and examination advice. Most resources are listed under the relevant discipline. Please refer to the Education section of the College website.

Recommended textbooks, journals and websites may also be found at this site listed under the relevant discipline.

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Educational psychologists can help with developing effective study techniques and strategies to perform optimally under stressful examination conditions. They can also help with managing stress and burnout in the learning environment.

Although the College does not provide referral to educational psychologists, you may contact the Education Advisor (kathyr@rcpa.edu.au) for advice about identifying a suitable professional to assist you.

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Positions of which the College is aware are advertised in the ‘Positions Vacant’ area of the College website and the via the fortnightly ‘Pathology Today’ newsletter. Vacant positions are also advertised on the State and Territory Health Department websites.

Please note that not every available position is advertised, and often the best way to find out about jobs is to ask around amongst senior colleagues or visit specific websites, particularly at the institutions where you would like to work.

The RCPA is active in lobbying at many levels for funding of pathology services and positions to best meet community needs and to offer suitable employment opportunities for specialists. The College undertakes workforce surveys and monitors the employment of new fellows through annual surveys. You are strongly encouraged to participate in such surveys when requested, as it will assist the College in its advocacy strategies.

Training positions are advertised on the RCPA website and in major state/regional newspapers. Advertisements state the number of available positions, the eligibility and selection criteria.

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The examination and assessment system is under constant review. Your curriculum handbook is the most reliable source of information about current requirements in your discipline.

For significant changes to assessments, the College policy for notification of assessment changes normally requires a minimum of 12 months’ notice. There will always be a realistic transition period to allow those already in training to complete their examinations under pre-existing rules or to accept the change.

Exceptions to the one year rule apply if the change is minor and will not affect study preparation, or if all potentially affected trainees agree and give explicit approval to the change being effected before the one year period.

Changes are notified to trainees, supervisors and councillors via direct email, so you must keep your contact email address up to date and check your messages regularly. You can make changes online here or please contact reception@rcpa.edu.au

If you are unsure about any examination changes you may contact the BEA administration bea@rcpa.edu.au, or the Education Advisor.

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Examination dates and venues are published on the RCPA website by November of the previous year. Enrolled candidates are also reminded via email.

Trainees wishing to take an examination at a venue other than a designated examination centre must make the request when they lodge their examination application, nominating a suitable invigilator, who should be a Fellow of the College. Where special arrangements are made the candidate, may be charged for the total costs incurred. (Please refer to College Policy: Candidates in Training and Sitting Examinations in Countries without a College Representative 17/2001).

The Trainee Handbook – Administrative Requirements has more detail about examination arrangements including withdrawal from examination and failure to attend.

For any further enquiries, please contact rcpa@rcpa.edu.au or phone the RCPA switchboard on 61 2 8356 5858 and you will be directed to a staff member who can assist.

If there are any unforeseen circumstances on the examination day, please contact the invigilator listed for your location.

If you are unwell, please obtain an independent medical certificate.

See also:

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If you have failed an examination you and your supervisor will receive specific feedback from the Chief Examiner in your discipline. You are strongly advised to discuss this with your supervisor and develop a plan aimed at future success.

Common problems in examinations include:

  • Not reading the question properly
  • Not answering the question that is set
  • Poor time management
  • Poorly arranged answers – no evidence of clear logic or planning
  • Answers that omit basic facts
  • Not speaking during viva/oral examinations

If you have failed the same examination twice, you will be assisted through a support mechanism in accordance with the RCPA policy for Trainees in Difficulty Support 2/2013. The policy also describes formal measures for candidates who fail a given examination more than twice.

Trainees or others acting on their behalf must not directly contact the Chief Examiner/Principal Examiner about examination results at any time. All enquiries regarding unsuccessful examination results must be directed to the Registrar of the Board of Education and Assessment.

Trainees who fail repeatedly because of performance anxiety may benefit from the assistance of an educational psychologist.

See also:

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Chief Examiners provide individualised feedback for all candidates who fail an examination. The feedback will also be sent to your designated supervisor. You should discuss this feedback with your supervisor and develop a plan aimed at future success. You must not contact examiners directly for any feedback.

Chief Examiners also provide general feedback and advice for all candidates. This is presented at Pathology Update each year, and video recordings are made available online for those who are unable to attend or who wish to review the information.

At the end of each examination cycle each Chief Examiner prepares a written summary of overall results and pass rates for each component, as well as highlighting any areas of difficulty. These summaries, along with documents providing generic feedback for some examinations, are posted on the RCPA website.

Enquiries regarding exam feedback may be addressed to bea@rcpa.edu.au.

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Trainees requiring specific assistance with preparing for examinations should speak to their supervisor or contact the Education Advisor. Those who have a particular problem with organising their study in the lead up to exams, or ‘exam nerves’ on the day, may benefit from the assistance of an educational psychologist.

Some networks offer exam preparation courses and practice exams. These usually book out early, so please check your email messages frequently to make sure you aware of any suitable courses.

The Education Advisor attends exam preparation courses and provides tips on how to perform at your best on exam day.

Here are some suggestions for studying for exams:

Each study session should have a specific goal

You need to know exactly what you want to accomplish during each study session.

Start with what you find most difficult

Conquering a difficult area early improves morale.

Review and reinforce

Make and review notes – read and write.

Reviewing notes will help you reinforce important content, and make sure studying is targeted and effective.

Structure study groups

‘Two heads are better than one’ BUT study groups can become ineffective if they're not structured and if group members come unprepared.

Helpful advice from the University of Melbourne can also be found at the following sites;

Revising for exams

Taking notes from texts

Exam day tips

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Trainees may request a review of their examination results by contacting the Registrar of the Board of Education and Assessment. Trainees who are dissatisfied with the review may under certain circumstances lodge a formal appeal in accordance with the Regulations Governing Processes for Review of Certain Decisions of the Company. The regulations set out possible grounds for review and the procedures to be followed.

  1. Reconsideration by original decision maker be it an individual or a committee.

    The request for review is first sent to the original decision maker to reconsider in light of any extra information or to double check that the decision was not made in error

    Example:

    A trainee has failed an examination and requests a review of this decision. In this instance the first step is that an administrative check of papers associated with the decision is undertaken and the Chief Examiner is asked to reconsider the result.

    The outcome of the first stage of the review is provided to the person who requested the review.

  2. Review by the Body responsible for the Original Decision that is under Review

    An appendix to the regulations sets out the three stages involved in a formal review:

    This stage would involve referral to the appropriate Committee/Board to which the original decision maker reports to. The original decision would be discussed along with any additional information provided by the person requesting the review. The Committee Board may choose ultimately to refer to the Board of Directors for further consideration.

    Example:

    The trainee was not happy with the outcome of stage one of the Review and requests review of the decision by the Board of Education and Assessment.

    The outcome of the second stage of the review is provided to the person who requested the review.

  3. Formal Appeal by Independent Review Committee

    If the person requesting the review is still not happy then the full review process detailed in the regulation will be enacted.

    Example:

    Trainee requests full review of exam results. A review committee set up as per the regulation.

The policy regarding Complaints in Relation to Examinations states that complaints regarding processes or results must be lodged with the Board of Education and Assessment Registrar within two months of the examination.

Where special circumstances concerning a trainee’s performance, such as illness, are known to exist, they should be communicated as soon as possible. Normally this should be by letter to the Registrar of the Board of Education and Assessment. In cases of emergency this could be by telephone to the College office or to the telephone number provided to examination candidates. Correspondence must not be sent directly to the Chief/Principal Examiners.

See also:

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The College recognises that some examination candidates have special needs and require special consideration, and makes every effort to assist these candidates. Where practicable, the candidate must inform the College at the time of their exam application to request special consideration.

Please refer to College Policy Examination Candidates in Need of Consideration for Illness, Accident, Disability or Compassionate Grounds 3/2001.

If circumstances arise after the submission of the application, the candidate must request special consideration as soon as possible. Normally this should be by letter to the Registrar of the Board of Education and Assessment. In cases of emergency this could be by telephone to the College office or to the telephone number provided to examination candidates. Correspondence must not be sent directly to the Chief/Principal Examiners.

Fees and provisions regarding withdrawal or failure to attend an exam are detailed in the Trainee Handbook – Administrative Requirements.

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The College values trainee feedback offers a range of formal and informal mechanisms for trainees to provide it. These include:

Trainees’ Committee

Trainees may contact the Trainees’ Committee at any time to contribute comments or raise concerns or queries with respect to education, training, assessment and professional matters. The committee is represented on the RCPA Council and Board of Education and Assessment where they have voting rights, and is consulted regarding any significant policy change that may impact on trainees. Please note that the Committee does not deal with concerns of a personal nature.

Education Advisor

The Education Advisor plays a pivotal role in terms of personal communication with trainees. The Education Advisor endeavours to meet with as many as possible during extensive site visits, and responds to many queries in person, by telephone or email, endeavouring to do so within 24 hours as far as possible.

Surveys

Comprehensive education surveys of trainees and fellows are conducted biennially and are promoted via email and in Pathology Today. Surveys for new Fellows conducted annually are designed to elicit specific concerns regarding recent training experience and employment issues. Other surveys are sometimes used to address specific programs and issues.

Curriculum review

All RCPA curricula and assessments are routinely reviewed in detail every five years. The Trainees’ Committee is always included, along with examiners and the Discipline Advisory Committee, in the first round of consultation in these reviews. All trainees in the relevant discipline are subsequently contacted and encouraged to provide feedback.

Supervisor reports

Trainees may record comments about their training on the Supervisor’s Report form after it has been signed by the supervisor. This will bring the matter to the attention of the Board of Education and Assessment Registrar who is responsible to follow up any significant concern and to seek a resolution where possible.

Training site accreditation

As part of the training site accreditation process, visits are undertaken periodically by representatives of the Board of Education and Assessment or as part of the NATA or IANZ laboratory accreditation processes. The visit will include consultation with trainees, and a review of training facilities and adequacy of supervision. Please refer to the College Policy on Accreditation of Training Sites.

Board of Education and Assessment

Trainees may communicate with the General Manager – Operations or the Registrar of the Board of Education and Assessment regarding issues they wish to bring to the Board’s attention. Contact bea@rcpa.edu.au.

See also:

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Training and examination fees are set by the Board of Directors each year. Fee schedules are published on the College website at https://www.rcpa.edu.au/Trainees/Exams/Training-Fees.

The RCPA policy on fees for training and examinations, including provisions for financial hardship, can be found here.

For enquiries about fees and payments you may email the accounts department at accounts@rcpa.edu.au or make a general enquiry at rcpa@rcpa.edu.au

Alternatively, phone the RCPA switchboard on 61 2 8356 5858 and you will be directed to a staff member who can assist.

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Details about required forms and due dates can be found in the Trainee Handbook – Administrative requirements in the ‘Summary of Forms and Submission Requirements’ section, and on the RCPA website under ‘Training with the RCPA’. All forms can be downloaded from this section of the website.

If you need help with finding, completing and submitting the right forms, please contact rcpa@rcpa.edu.au or phone the RCPA switchboard on 61 2 8356 5858 and you will be directed to a staff member who can assist.

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For issues with the RCPA website, login and email, please contact webmaster@rcpa.edu.au or phone the RCPA switchboard on 61 2 8356 5858 to speak to a member of the IT team.

Please make sure you keep your contact details up to date. You can make changes online here or please contact reception@rcpa.edu.au

Ensure that you back up important RCPA records and documents regularly.

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Information for joint RACP/RCPA trainees can be found on the RCPA website at https://www.rcpa.edu.au/Trainees/Training-with-the-RCPA/Joint-Trainee-with-RCPA and the RACP website at https://www.racp.edu.au/trainees/advanced-training/advanced-training-programs. Further information may be found in the Trainee Handbook – Administrative Requirements and the discipline-specific handbooks.

The forms for joint training are available from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians website. Note that the RACP has different forms for Australia and New Zealand.

The two colleges have been working to streamline the paperwork requirements and to avoid duplication where possible.

Initial registration:

New joint trainees must complete forms for both colleges

Annual registration:

Joint trainees must complete the RACP Annual Application Form for Approval of Advanced Training at the beginning of each training year/term and pay annual training fees to both Colleges. The RCPA does not require a separate form.

Supervisor’s Reports:

Joint trainees may submit a copy of their RACP supervisor form. In Microbiology and Haematology, the forms are common to both Colleges. Trainees are not required to submit a separate RCPA form except if they are sitting an RCPA examination.

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Limited registration is available to medical practitioners whose medical qualifications are from a medical school outside Australia or New Zealand.

These medical schools must be listed in both the current online versions of the Australian Medical Council recognised medical schools and the World Directory of Medical Schools.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have completed a medical curriculum of at least four academic years, leading to an entitlement to registration in the country issuing the degree to practise clinical medicine.

There are four types of limited registration, granted for different purposes, which allow internationally-qualified medical practitioners to provide medical services under supervision:

Medical practitioners with this type of registration must comply with the Medical Board of Australia’s registration standard on limited registration for postgraduate training or supervised practice, which includes requirements that they:

  • comply with a supervision plan
  • comply with a training plan
  • authorise and facilitate the provision of regular reports from their supervisors to the Board about their safety and competence to practise
  • perform satisfactorily in the postgraduate training or supervised practice position, and
  • provide evidence to confirm satisfactory progress towards meeting the requirements for general registration or specialist registration. Medical practitioners are exempt from this requirement if they will not apply for more than three renewals of registration.

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Maternal leave must be negotiated with the employer. The College has provisions for part-time and flexible training to accommodate maternal leave.

For the purpose of RCPA accredited training, 8 weeks leave per annum, including recreational, personal study and maternal leave is normally allowed. If more than 8 weeks’ leave is taken in a training year, the Trainee should notify the Registrar and the Trainee and Assessment Support Administrator. The Trainee will be required to undertake additional training time up to the period of additional leave.

See also:

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Depending on the nature of the concern, you may seek advice from your head of department, local medical administrators, medical unions or medical indemnifiers.

Serious matters involving the College or patient safety must be brought to the attention of the RCPA CEO or Deputy CEO who are qualified and experienced medical administrators. They maintain an ‘open door policy’ and will offer confidential advice as required. More about the CEO, DCEO and how to contact them can be found here.

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Recent publicity has highlighted concerns about mental health issues amongst specialist trainees. They may involve temporary or ongoing issues for trainees, but must always be addressed to protect the safety of the trainee and patients.

Who can you call upon?

  • Trusted colleague and/or peer
  • Mentor
  • General Practitioner
  • Supervisor
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Doctors Health Advisory Service (DHAS) Australia and New Zealand
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist

For Joint trainees, RACP offers a confidential support program through Converge International 1300 687 327 (AU) or 0800 666 367 (NZ)

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Welfare Special Interest Group has produced a helpful guide to depression and anxiety in specialist trainees:

RD 03 Depression and Anxiety 2016

Strategies to manage your mental health are also outlined in the following article:

https://www.doctorportal.com.au/mjainsight/2017/20/dear-dr-find-someone-you-trust-and-start-talking/

Heads Up: Better Mental Health in the Workplace is an initiative of Beyond Blue. They have an extensive collection of resources for employees and employers on their website.

RANZCP offers an online directory of psychiatrists and services provided at https://www.yourhealthinmind.org/find-a-psychiatrist

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ aims to provide information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. It includes specific resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Lifeline Australia https://www.lifeline.org.au/ offers crisis support and suicide prevention. Phone 131114.

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/helplines/ provides information and access to support and services for mental health.

See also:

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Mentoring can be highly beneficial to support professional development and help trainees to get the most from their training and career. The College therefore encourages all trainees to establish mentoring relationships if possible. As one pathologist puts it:

‘Trainees should be able to choose a mentor who accompanies them on the journey of becoming a well-rounded and well-trained consultant. Someone who is interested in their journey and supportive with positive input in their training. As consultants usually have a lot more experience, they can see potential in each individual and should foster that and encourage them. I have listened to many an oration and have always been impressed that those who made a difference in their career, were those that had a mentor! Someone to look up to. Someone who invested time in them and believed in them. As a trainee you do not know everything and sometimes you make less optimal decisions, but a mentor should be able to navigate you through the process and encourage you to new heights’.

The College may require some trainees experiencing difficulties to have formal mentoring, and mentoring is also strongly encouraged for any trainees experiencing academic or personal difficulties, for overseas-trained pathologists, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori trainees and for trainees in regional and remote locations. In the case of trainees who are sent to regional centres early in their training, the College will endeavour to pair them with metropolitan senior registrars or pathologists who can offer regular support.

Mentoring is also strongly encouraged for new Fellows transitioning into specialist practice, as this can be a particularly stressful time with increasing levels of responsibility.

Please see the RCPA mentoring guideline.

Who can be a mentor?

Your supervisor can fulfil some mentoring functions, but is primarily responsible for training matters. It is best to identify at least one other person, for example other pathologists, senior trainees, other medical and scientific professionals. The mentor need not be in your own department or organisation, particularly if you are experiencing difficulties in that environment. Sometimes metropolitan/regional partnerships can be very helpful.

Some professional medical organisations e.g. AIDA, Te ORA, medical women’s associations, and sexuality and gender diverse groups can arrange mentoring for general or special needs.

Ways to find and keep a mentor

  1. Look for role models
    • Who do you wish to be like?
    • Seek advice from supervisor, department head, senior trainees
  2. Build relationships
    • Express interest in their work
    • Give them a chance to get to know you
    • Be mindful of time constraints
  3. Ask questions
    • Their career pathway, challenges, what they learned
    • Be open and let it evolve
    • Different mentors can offer different things
  4. Articulate your expectations but don’t push the agenda
  5. Don’t give up when the going gets tough. Tough questions may lead to the greatest achievements.

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Welfare Special Interest Group has also published some useful information about mentoring and how to identify a suitable mentor: RD 08 Mentors 2011

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Training in other laboratories such as overseas or research laboratories is considered on its merits. If approval is required for a period in an overseas laboratory, full details of the laboratory and supervisor must be sent to the Board of Education and Assessment with the initial or annual registration form prior to commencement of the training period.

A maximum of 2 years training may be accredited in a laboratory outside the College’s sphere of activity. See College Policy Candidates in Training and Sitting Examinations in Countries without College Representation 17/2001

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Parental leave must be negotiated with the employer. The College has provisions for part-time and flexible training to accommodate parental leave.

For the purpose of RCPA accredited training, 8 weeks leave per annum, including recreational, personal study and parental leave is normally allowed. If more than 8 weeks’ leave is taken in a training year, the Trainee should notify the Registrar and the Trainee and Assessment Support Administrator. The Trainee will be required to undertake additional training time up to the period of additional leave.

See also:

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Please refer to the Policy for Interrupted and Part-time Training.

The College does not limit the duration of training and acknowledges that training may be interrupted or undertaken on a part-time basis for various reasons. To maintain the currency and integrity of training, the College requires that any period of part-time training must entail at least 8 hours per week for RCPA training programs and at least 16 hours per week for Joint RACP/RCPA training programs. Trainees proposing to undertake part-time training must provide the Board of Education and Assessment with a prospective training program agreed to by the supervisor so that this may be considered in calculating the total duration of training.

If you need part-time training you should discuss this in the first instance with your supervisor and/or head of department. Since the College does not employ trainees or have any influence over employment matters, the actual creation and availability of part-time training options is outside the control of the College. Within training networks, Training Network Coordinators can sometimes facilitate part-time training by identifying trainees who wish to train part-time and linking them to employers who may be able to assist; or by coordinating opportunities for two trainees to share a full-time position.

Training may be suspended at any time without penalty, but where training has been interrupted for more than five years, additional training may be required at the discretion of the Board of Education and Assessment, also taking account of recency of practice requirements of the applicable medical registration authority.

Trainees must notify the BEA Registrar in writing, providing details of the anticipated duration of leave or suspension. A training deferment fee is payable. This allows continued receipt of College communications, including the journal and access to the members’ section of the website.

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Optimising your personal physical and mental health is fundamental to performing at your best in your work and training and to enjoying a fulfilling career and life.

One of your best allies in achieving this is your general practitioner. Every doctor should have their own doctor. A good GP can take a holistic approach to your health needs. Finding the right GP is a personal choice, but as a general principle the GP should be comfortable treating you as both a patient and a medical professional, without necessarily treating you like a professional colleague in a health care situation.

Read more about health and well-being of junior doctors at http://www.jmohealth.org.au/.

Who can help?

The Doctors Health Advisory Service http://dhas.org.au/ offers state-based personal and confidential telephone help line services in Australia to provide doctors with ready access to health care. They can refer to doctors who have specific interest who have specific interest and training in working with other doctors.

The New Zealand Medical Association offers advice to doctors about maintaining physical and mental health and wellbeing on their 'Are You OK?' site.

Most medical Indemnity providers offer wellbeing support services to doctors as well as medicolegal advice.

The Australasian Doctors Health Network http://www.adhn.org.au/ provides doctors in Australia and New Zealand with contact phone numbers for help and support in time of need, and resources to promote your own and colleagues' wellbeing. It operates 24/7 but is not designed for medical emergencies.

Who else can help?

  • Trusted colleague and/or peer
  • Mentor
  • Supervisor
  • Network Coordinator
  • Education Advisor
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Dietician
  • Physical trainer

See also:

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Trainees are expected to maintain comprehensive records of their training and examinations, including copies of initial and annual registration forms, examination application forms, supervisors’ reports, examination results and correspondence with the College. Please refer to individual Trainee handbooks for specific portfolio requirements.

Portfolio summary sheets and assessment forms must be completed in the prescribed format. In some disciplines the College may also provide templates to assist with your personal record keeping and to facilitate review with your supervisor. It is not compulsory to use these and trainees may retain their personal/local records in whichever format suits them best.

Please remember that regardless of which system you use, you must retain a backup, either electronic or on paper.

Supervisors and other trainees who have successfully negotiated the portfolio requirements may be able to help with the practicalities of completing your portfolio, but please bear in mind that sometimes requirements change and that the current handbook is the most reliable source of information. If you do not understand any requirements after careful reading and discussion with your supervisor, you may contact the Education Advisor for assistance.

Only activities conducted during a period of accredited training may be included to satisfy portfolio requirements. Work that has contributed to a PhD may not be used subsequently for PPD purposes.

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Any personal information provided by trainees is strictly confidential to the College staff, members of relevant College committees, examiners and supervisors. Trainees are therefore asked on registration forms for their consent to the RCPA providing relevant and necessary information as above.

The College will manage personal information in accordance with its Privacy Policy. If you wish to access any information we hold on you or have any queries about the Privacy Policy, please contact the Privacy Officer on +61 2 8356 5858.

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Positions of which the College is aware are advertised in the ‘Positions Vacant’ area of the College website and the via the fortnightly ‘Pathology Today’ newsletter. Vacant positions are also advertised on the State and Territory Health Department websites.

The RCPA is not an employer and cannot assist those seeking positions.

See also:

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Time spent in research or project work is encouraged and up to one year in relevant work during training may be approved. Please check under each discipline handbook for more detailed training requirements. Applications for accreditation of research training must be prospectively submitted for approval.

Undertaking research in a Fellowship position after completion of training, either at home or overseas, is an excellent option.

The RCPA Foundation offers various awards, grants and scholarships to promote opportunities for funded research.

The RCPA offers some state-based research workshops and recommends research courses offered by other organisations. Details may be found in the Events section of the RCPA website or through your Network Coordinator.

Online resources and links may be found at https://www.rcpa.edu.au/Education/Research-and-Scholarship

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Some training may be approved retrospectively. This must be sought from the Board of Education and Assessment on initial registration as a trainee. Applications should include full supporting documentation such as training and examination results, laboratory and supervisor information, projects and work history. The training details are to be accompanied by a statement from the supervisor for each period, verifying the claim.

Retrospective accreditation is considered on an individual basis by the relevant Chief or Principal Examiner; however, training undertaken in an undergraduate program would not generally be recognised.

If retrospective training is approved, the trainee will be required to pay a fee based on the current annual trainee fee for each year of retrospective accreditation granted.

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Supplementary funding may be available for those training in positions located within an Australian area classified under the Remote Area classification as RA2, RA3, RA4 and RA5.

This funding may be available annually to trainees who are located at a rural or regional training sites to assist trainees with conference attendance, study visits, research projects and equipment purchases. Trainees and supervisors are required to submit an application in line with the Guidelines for Rural Supplementation Applications document to be eligible for funding.

Guidelines for Rural Supplementation applications may be found here.

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A Fellow trained in one discipline may wish to undergo training in a field other than the one in which they originally qualified. In this case, they must meet the requirements set out in the applicable curriculum handbook or other requirements as determined by the Board of Education and Assessment.

An extended scope of practice may sometimes require an assessment comparable in standard to the Part II examination for the discipline in question.

Please see the Scope of Practice Recognition policy.

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Some degree of stress is inevitable for specialist trainees who have to complete tasks in limited time, prepare for high-stakes exams and balance their work and study with personal responsibilities. Individuals will cope with stress in different ways, some of which are healthier than others. Some healthy strategies include:

  • Breaking down tasks into achievable parts and learning good time management skills, including taking adequate breaks
  • Recognising your own achievements and strengths as well as recognising limitations and seeking help when required
  • Developing a strong network of peers and friends
  • Having helpful professional and mentoring relationships
  • Focussing on achieving career-life balance
  • Managing lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, sleep and moderating alcohol consumption

Read more about managing stress at http://www.jmohealth.org.au/

Who can you call upon?

  • Trusted colleague and/or peer
  • Mentor
  • General Practitioner
  • Supervisor
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Doctors Health Advisory Service (DHAS) Australia and New Zealand
  • Departmental/divisional support person
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist

See also:

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The primary role of a supervisor is to structure and provide learning opportunities and to give feedback on performance. To do this a supervisor should meet regularly with trainees and observe their performance and interactions with clinicians and others in the workplace.

Although one person is the designated supervisor, in most situations many specialists contribute to training. As well as supervision and teaching, pathologists and other professionals may offer mentorship to trainees.

Occasionally a trainee may have difficulty working with a supervisor. If this occurs, it should be discussed in the first instance with the Head of Department who is normally responsible for matching trainees to supervisors. Conflicts that cannot be resolved at department level may be referred to the Network Coordinator, State or Regional Councillor, or in rare and serious cases to the RCPA CEO. The Education Advisor is available to offer confidential advice regarding available courses of action if a trainee experiences any difficulties with supervision.

If the difficulties cannot be readily resolved, a trainee may request an alternative supervisor. Any change should be notified promptly to the College. You may send an email to bea@rcpa.edu.au or phone the College and ask for a staff member who can assist with updating your file. This is important because the College may send information about your exam performance to the currently nominated supervisor.

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The RCPA recognises the importance of early identification of trainees who are not meeting expectations in all areas. You need not despair about getting a few ratings of ‘2’ in your supervisor’s report. It just means that there is an opportunity to improve by addressing learning needs and any factors that may be preventing you from performing at your best. Initially, these matters are best addressed with your supervisor and/or mentor, with additional advice if needed from your Network Coordinator or the Education Advisor.

A rating of ‘1’ signifies a more serious problem that must be verified by the supervisor plus at least one other senior colleague. It will trigger a support process according to the Trainees in Difficulty Support Policy. The Registrar of the Board of Education and Assessment will contact you and/or your supervisor to ensure that an appropriate plan is implemented. Again, it is not a cause for despair, but it is definitely a ‘wake-up call’. Some trainees have been able to turn their careers around with mentoring and an effective work and study plan.

Trainees may record their disagreement with a Supervisor Report on the form after it has been signed by the supervisor. This will bring the matter to the attention of the Board of Education and Assessment Registrar who is responsible to follow up any significant concern and to seek a resolution where possible.

See also:

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The Trainees’ Committee is a channel for all trainees to provide input into the training, education and professional activities of the College.

The Committee reports to the RCPA Board of Directors and has voting rights on the RCPA Council and the Board of Education and Assessment.

The Committee seeks representation across as many regions and disciplines as possible and may include a trainee from one of the RCPA Faculties.

Contacting the Trainees’ Committee

Trainees may contact any committee member directly and confidentially without necessarily going through the Chair. Please note that committee members will not offer advice of a personal nature.

The Committee generally hosts a Trainee Forum at Pathology Update each year.

Please see the Trainees’ Committee Terms of Reference on the College website.

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The Trainees in Difficulty Support Policy emphasises support rather than disciplinary measures. It follows a stepwise process and has been successful in providing many trainees with pathways to address their learning needs and personal difficulties so that they may complete their training requirements.

Non-critical difficulties are common and include situations like failing a single exam, having some readily remediable ratings of ‘2’ on a supervisor’s report, or having a temporary illness or personal problem. These matters can usually be readily addressed at a local level with the supervisor and/or Network Coordinator, and many trainees find that it is also helpful to have a mentor.

Where these problems persist, or if there is repeated exam failure, a trainee may be said to be in major difficulty, and more formal study plans and mentoring processes will be put into place. Most trainees get through these difficulties and go on to complete their training. These processes are normally managed by Network Coordinators or State/Regional Councillors in collaboration with supervisors. Normally a trainee will be strongly encouraged to have a mentor in these circumstances.

Critical difficulty is uncommon and relates to more serious persisting academic or personal difficulties, including three or more failures in the same examination, or dismissal by an employer, serious professional misconduct, or a situation where there is any immediate danger to patients, the trainee or others. In this case a review panel will assess all available and relevant evidence and determine a course of action that usually consists of prescribed conditions to be met in order to continue. Dismissal from the program is a rare event which would not occur without due process and after all avenues for remediation have been unsuccessful.

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Training must be undertaken at a site accredited for training by the Board of Education and Assessment. A current list of sites is available on the RCPA website.

Appointments and rotations are controlled by employers rather than the College, but their processes must comply with RCPA guideline for Selection of Trainees.< /p>

Appointments to most training positions are coordinated through regional and/or discipline-based networks. Further information can be found here.

The RCPA recognises that training sites are not equal, but all provide different training experiences. While comprehensive coverage of learning experiences is mainly available in centralised public metropolitan sites, valuable learning opportunities also exist in smaller, private and regional sites. Trainees are encouraged to avail themselves where possible of opportunities to complete training in a variety of work settings. Some networks offer information sessions about available positions. Trainees are strongly encouraged to attend these when possible. Otherwise your Training Network Coordinators or the Education Advisor can offer advice.

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Many trainees work in accredited training positions in regional centres. There are definite advantages to training in more regional areas. In some instances, the training may be more personal than in larger metropolitan laboratories and trainees may have expanded opportunities to participate in many activities within the laboratories. Many consider these regional rotations formative to their careers.

Trainees in regional laboratories need to discuss any limitations of the training site with their supervisors. Regional trainees are supported by training networks and more senior metropolitan trainees.

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To achieve and maintain RCPA accreditation, training sites must comply with the RCPA policy on Accreditation of Training Sites. If there are significant shortcomings, the RCPA will conduct a site visit, and on rare occasions may withdraw the site’s accreditation status.

The College takes measures to minimise the impact on any trainees involved. Trainees may complete their current yearly term of employment without affecting accreditation of their training time. The College will assist trainees to find suitable alternative employment where possible or may organise rotations or attachments to ensure that the trainee receives adequate experience and supervision.

Please contact your Network Coordinators and/or the Education Advisor if you need assistance.

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Trainees fulfil service roles as well as undertaking training and education. You can expect to work hard as a trainee, and some out-of-hours work and covering for colleagues is inevitable. However, it is also known that working beyond ‘safe hours’ can pose risks for doctors and patients.

The College advocates for appropriate balance between service and educational activities and periodically gathers data on the time that trainees spend on various tasks. This data may be used to make recommendations to training sites to ensure adequate exposure to essential educational experiences.

A helpful article from the University of Melbourne on managing time and learning activities can be found here.

If you believe that your educational activities and service requirements are seriously out of balance, or that you are required to work unreasonable hours or rosters, you should discuss this in the first instance with your supervisor, head of department and/or Network Coordinator. Unresolved issues may be discussed with the Education Advisor who can suggest options for further action.

The Australian Medical Association has played a leadership role in raising awareness of the risks of fatigue for medical professionals and in the development of practical solutions to minimise these risks. They provide a Fatigue Risk Assessment Tool.

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Workplace conflict is inevitable, but can potentially be destructive if not managed promptly and effectively.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has published a decision diagram to help with defining the nature and severity of interpersonal conflicts at work, and to suggest possible courses of action.

Some tips for managing workplace conflict can be found at the website of the Victorian Better Health Channel.

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RCPA accredited training sites are required to have workplace health and safety provisions in place in accordance with jurisdictional legal requirements. When commencing new employment, you should ensure that you are familiar and comply with all safety directions.

The RCPA requires that pathology trainees complete a laboratory safety module and personal safety checklist early in training and file the evidence in their portfolio.

If you believe that your working conditions are unsafe for any reason, you should discuss this in the first instance with your supervisor, head of department and/or network coordinator. Unresolved issues may be discussed with the Education Advisor who can suggest options for further action.

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11-Apr-2019
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