-World Menopause Month 2022 -
Ireland – Female doctors must be well supported through the menopause to reduce the risk of a potential exodus of passionate and skilled clinicians from the workforce, according to Medical Protection.
Around 18% of Medical Council female registrants are aged between 46-55, when menopause is likely to occur. Many could be impacted by symptoms such as anxiety, depression, poor concentration, brain fog, dizziness and insomnia while doing their best to care for patients in challenging and complex environments.
Medical Protection said it fears many of these doctors may leave medicine early without better mental wellbeing support, greater awareness from leaders and workplace adjustments – all of which will help these doctors to continue to perform at their best and stay in the workforce for longer.
A Medical Protection survey of female doctors in Ireland who have experienced menopause, supports the concerns. Only 5% feel supported by their employer/workplace and less than 1% feel supported by their line manager, while 60% feel supported by family and friends.
Over a quarter (27%) feel supported by colleagues but 8% say colleagues have been dismissive of their menopause symptoms.
60% do not know where to seek support for their menopause symptoms at their workplace, and almost one in five (18%) say they have considered early retirement due to menopause symptoms and the impact on their wellbeing.
Dr Gozie Offiah, Medical Protection Council member said: “It is striking that while most doctors report feeling confident in supporting and managing patients who are impacted by menopause symptoms, so many female doctors do not feel well supported at work when they are affected by these symptoms themselves.
“I recognise menopause and the associated symptoms vary widely; however, clearly there are a significant number of female doctors who are suffering in silence and require more support during this phase of their life. Brain fog, forgetfulness, poor concentration and insomnia can make any job difficult, but particularly so in a challenging and complex environment like healthcare.
“Many female doctors tell us they are concerned about their symptoms impacting on their performance, or resulting in medicolegal issues. This causes additional stress. One doctor summed up her experience in our survey, saying menopause is like ‘falling off a cliff’.
“Leaders and managers in the HSE and in private healthcare settings must be trained on the menopause and how the symptoms can impact on the wellbeing of some individuals and their teams. Those suffering with symptoms should feel comfortable to discuss workplace adjustments and seek mental wellbeing support. If there is a menopause workplace policy this should also be well communicated.
“Making improvements in this area is not only right and fair, it is also essential. If we do not destigmatise menopause, we may lose many skilled and passionate doctors during a time when the profession can ill-afford it. A supportive culture will alleviate additional stress, enable these doctors to continue to perform at their best for patients, and thrive in their careers for longer.”
Anonymous quotes from doctors in Ireland who took part in the Medical Protection survey:
“Menopause is life changing, many women including me will describe it like ‘falling off a cliff’. Vasomotor symptoms are tortuous but cognitive decline even with HRT is worrying. There is always a concern that I will have to stop practicing medicine due to symptoms of menopause.”
“I was clueless about my own symptoms and now realise how dismissive I was about others. The more we educate and mobilise knowledge the better. I thought I was going mad.”
“I am very fortunate that there are two members of staff trained in this area who advise regarding menopause.”
“The need to cover a 24hour rota and a lack of locum cover means no one can take time off unless a first degree relative dies…. Lack of sleep 2 years ago really impacted me at work in the mornings, but I still turned up.”
“I am a menopause specialist so I don’t have any issues with managing patients or dealing with colleagues suffering through menopause. There is a substantial need for programs to manage menopause in the workplace and training managerial staff, and public awareness campaigns in dealing with this very important issue.”
“Menopause isn’t a huge issue for me, but it would be helpful to have more flexibility in work and the ability to reduce hours would allow the time to address health needs.”
“I would like to reduce my hours but we do not have the resources. My own GP is understaffed and I have been reluctant to make an appointment because I know that she is under pressure too.”
“The lack of sleep impacts on efficiency at work and particularly impacts on doing on-call.”
“Menopause and its complications were not taught well at third level of GP training. As a female GP, I have actively sought out further education on this issue.”
“I would feel incredibly embarrassed discussing with male colleagues or managers”
“My personal experience has helped immensely in understanding and treating menopause symptoms but I have never come across someone reducing or changing their work due to the symptoms. Occasionally, they may take a couple of days due to sleep disturbance or mood problems but it is rare.”
Medical Protection recommendations, from its paper Supporting doctors through the menopause:
- All healthcare organisations should introduce flexible working arrangements for individual clinicians struggling with menopause, with policies and procedures to ensure they can seek support–such as making reasonable workplace adjustments, taking breaks or taking time off when needed – without fear of adverse impacts on their career or professional reputation.
- Managers and senior leaders in the HSE and in private healthcare settings must be trained in the topic of the menopause, including the impact the symptoms can have on working females and their teams. Anyone who is suffering with menopause symptoms needs to be supported by their managers, to discuss any necessary changes to working arrangements.
- Occupational health teams should be involved in a proactive way in planning and supporting clinicians going through the menopause in a proactive way to avoid them leaving the profession. This should include support for mental health and wellbeing.
- Primary care providers should consider staff with menopause expertise, when hiring new team members, as this will benefit patients, clinicians and practice staff.
- Healthcare professionals working in the HSE or in private practice who are struggling with menopause symptoms themselves should seek support and professional advice on potential treatments and lifestyle measures. Medical Protection also has a role to play - we listen to and care for members, including offering support with their wellbeing and we have made our 24/7 confidential counselling service available for those struggling with the menopause.
Link to Medical Protection report – Supporting doctors through the menopause: https://www.medicalprotection.org/ireland/about/our-policy-work/supporting-doctors-through-the-menopause
Notes to editors:
- The Medical Council’s 2020 annual report states that 20% of its registrants are between 46-55. Females of that age group made up 17.9%.
- The Medical Protection survey of Ireland healthcare professionals was undertaken in September 2022 and obtained 354 respondents.
- While going through menopause, 5% of female doctors said that they feel supported by their employer/workplace, less than 1% feel supported by their line manager, 27% said feel supported by their colleagues and 60% feel supported by their family and friends.
- 8% of female doctors who have experienced menopause said that some of their colleagues were dismissive of their menopause symptoms.
- 60% of female doctors who have experienced menopause do not know where to seek support for their menopause symptoms at their workplace.
- 50% of female doctors who have experienced menopause are concerned about their menopause symptoms impacting the quality of their work/performance.
- 35% of female doctors who have experienced menopause are concerned about the impact of menopause symptoms resulting in medicolegal issues (e.g. clinical negligence claim, Medical Council investigation into their practice, disciplinary, involvement in inquest and / or patient complaint).
- 37% of all doctors surveyed do not know whether their employer/workplace has a menopause workplace policy.
- 74% of all doctors surveyed agreed that they are confident in supporting and managing patients impacted by menopause symptoms.
- All doctors surveyed would welcome more training on how to support and treat patients impacted by menopause symptoms (69%) and on managing/ supporting colleagues dealing with menopause (59%).
- 37% of female doctors who have experienced menopause have considered reducing their hours, while 19% (1 in 5) have considered flexible working, and 18% have considered early retirement due to menopause symptoms and the impact on their wellbeing.
- Female doctors who are currently not experiencing menopause would consider flexible working (76%), reducing their hours (64%), stepping back from clinical work to pursue other medical-related projects / jobs (27%), early retirement (24%) and leaving the medical profession to pursue a different career (6%) in future when they are going through menopause.
For further information contact: Suzi Salleh | [email protected] | +44 779 080 7722
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