AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton

In order to provide optimum patient care, Australian doctors and other health care professionals should be mindful of their own wellbeing, starting with having the right work-life balance.

This message was delivered by Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Dr Steve Hambleton, at the Health Professionals’ Health Conference 2013 in Brisbane on 3 October 2013.

Attendees at the event, formerly called the Doctors’ Health Conference, heard Dr Hambleton say, “It is vital that team members help other team members to stay healthy. We must offer each other support, encouragement and advice.

“It is important that doctors and other health professionals look after their health. We need to be healthy to offer the best care to our patients and to experience rewarding and satisfying careers.”

The AMA President felt that such conferences provided an opportunity to highlight issues that had long remained hidden.

“Our own health issues were taboo, but that is now changing. It is good for us to get together in the light – in the open – to share stories and to learn from each other’s experiences.

“Research has consistently shown that doctors with healthy personal lifestyle habits are more likely to impart healthy behaviours to their patients.”

Staying well is more than just being physically healthy, Dr Hambleton added, citing WHO’s definition of health as being a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

“Work-life balance is so important. It could be music, it could be writing, it could be bushwalking, it could be spending time with your family - but it’s not all about work.”

He admitted that he had not always practiced what he preached.

“Given that my major exercise is punching the keys on a computer, it is important for me to take my own advice about staying fit and getting regular exercise… I took a holiday recently and realised that fitness and me were not on the same page. 

“Upon walking up a ‘very steep hill’ on Lord Howe Island, I took my pulse and found it was 192… Was that a vague chest pain I was feeling? Then and there, my wife made me promise to see my GP… It’s time for a check-up and time to restart the exercise program.”

Dr Hambleton’s full address is at -