Article Text

Download PDFPDF
The work environment of junior doctors: their perspectives and coping strategies
  1. Tzong-Yang Pan1,
  2. Howard S Fan2,3,
  3. Cathy A Owen1
  1. 1Medical School, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  2. 2St George and Sutherland Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  3. 3Department of Surgery, The Sutherland Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tzong-Yang Pan, Medical School, Australian National University, The Canberra Hospital, Building 4, Hospital Road, Garran, Canberra, ACT 2605, Australia; u5137082{at}


Objective This study explores the associations between psychological distress in junior doctors and their work environment and how they cope with work stressors.

Methods A cross-sectional survey designed by Health Education and Training Institute was delivered in 2014 to over 1900 junior doctors across 15 hospital networks through Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Psychological distress was evaluated using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale-10 (K10). Numerous variables were assessed for associations with psychological distress to identify the strongest relationships and the coping strategies used. Potential associations between work demands, coping strategies and psychological distress were explored.

Results 540 responses were analysed. 414 (81%) thought their workload was reasonable, 376 (75%) were enjoying their current job and 446 (82.6%) were content with their work life. However, 85 (15.7%) reported that they would not study medicine if given their time again, and 146 (27%) reported workplace bullying. The mean K10 score was 17.2 (σ=6.3) and the prevalence of elevated psychological distress was between 63% and 80% higher than the general community. Variables most strongly associated with distress were: being discontented with workload, lack of enjoyment from current job, taking time off work and having experienced workplace bullying. There was a preference to use social activities as a method of coping but at higher levels of psychological distress there is a greater proportion who took time off work.

Conclusions Psychologically distressed junior doctors need recognition, support and treatment. Future interventions should focus on improving work environment, job satisfaction, provision of supports, use of healthy coping strategies and improving work-related relationships. This could potentially reduce levels of psychological distress in junior doctors, optimise delivery of healthcare to patients and maximise workforce potential.

  • Junior doctors
  • work environment
  • psychological distress
  • coping strategies

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors T-YP, CAO and HSF have contributed significantly to the conception, design, acquisition of data and analysis of data. All the authors have contributed to the editing and revision of the manuscript. All the authors were satisfied with the final manuscript and provided their approval. The authors take responsibility for the work and ensure the accuracy and integrity of the work.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Hunter New England Human Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement This study used data from the Health Education and Training Institute Junior Medical Officer Census, 2014. Some of the data have been publicly released and the unpublished 2014 data are available directly from the Health Education and Training Institute. Participants of the survey have provided consent for the release of these data to interested parties looking at conducting research with it.