Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Australian Doctors' Non-Clinical Activities: Results from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) Survey of Doctors

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Australian Doctors' Non-Clinical Activities: Results from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) Survey of Doctors

Article excerpt


It is commonplace for doctors to engage in a range of non-clinical activities, such as research, education and administration. These are recognised as an integral part of the medical professional role1 and include activities such as teaching, supervision, financial management, continuing professional development, practice management and research. Policy documents suggest these activities are expected to comprise 20%-30% of a doctor's time in public settings.2,3 Less typically, doctors may engage in 'nontraditional' non-clinical activities, which are less closely related orcompletely unrelatedtoclinical practice. This caninclude work in areas such as economics, law, entrepreneurship, consulting, technology, informatics, journalism, engineering, government and social services.4

Involvement in non-clinical activity may have benefits for individual doctors by facilitating career progression and development.5 The existing literature on job satisfaction indicates that having variety in work and opportunities to use one's skills are integral components of job satisfaction for doctors.6,7 Conversely, involvement in clerical and administrative tasks may reduce job satisfaction.8 However, to date the relationship between job satisfaction and non-clinical work has not been directly examined. This is particularly relevant as the proportion of graduateentry alumni with at least one other qualification, and hence a wider range of skills, experience and interests, increases. Consequently, these graduates may pursue a broader range of career pathways compared with earlier, more homogeneous cohorts. There is a small but growing literature on non-clinical work among doctors that documents the increasing interest of younger doctors in a wide range of career pathways, with a particular focus on clinical academic roles.4,9-11

Understanding how engagement in non-clinical activities affects doctors'time in directpatient care, theircareerprogression and job and life satisfaction is highly important and poorly understood. Greaterengagement in non-clinical work may reduce the effective full-time supply available to meet the medical needs of the community and, as such, is an important consideration in medical workforce planning. Despite this, current workforce models do not include any parameters for the amount of nonclinical activity.12 The aim of the present study was to examine non-clinical activities being undertaken by doctors, and to determine associations between non-clinical work and personal and professional characteristics.


The present study used Wave 5 data from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey of doctors. The study methods have been published previously.13,14 Briefly, 10 769 doctors responded to the Wave 5 MABEL survey, comprised of 8240 (76.5%) doctors who had responded to one or more previous waves of the MABEL survey and 2529 (23.5%) doctors in the Wave 5 'top-up' sample. The sample for the present study consisted of 8581 doctors, including GPs (n = 2200), specialists (n = 3455), hospital non-specialists (n = 1656) and specialists in training (including GP trainees; n = 1270) after removing missing cases on both explanatory and outcome variables. The study was approved by the Faculty of Economics and Commerce Human Ethics Advisory Group, University of Melbourne, and the Monash University Standing Committee on Ethics in Research Involving Humans.

Variables used

Non-clinical work was measured (working hours in the past week according to activities) for the following three items: (1) education (i.e. teaching, research and continuing medical education); (2) management and administration; and (3) other.

The MABEL surveys collect information on a wide range of personal and professional characteristics and attitudes. Variables included in the present study were: age, gender (male = 0; female = 1) and doctor type (GP, specialist, hospital non-specialists and specialists in training, including GP trainees). …

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