The ugly side of becoming a surgeon- ASMOF response


The personal account of the experience of a surgical registrar who has now resigned has been widely shared online and exposes unacceptable work conditions that continue to threaten the wellbeing and careers of DiTs.

In ‘The ugly side of becoming a surgeon’ on the blog mind body miko, Miko shares details of ‘the worst working days of my life’, in which Miko was forced to work extreme and unsafe hours without adequate breaks as she worked towards getting into an advanced training program. The post highlights a range of challenges faced by our DiTS including unsafe working hours, sexism, bullying, violence and aggression.

Many of Miko’s statements will no doubt resonate with our DiT members. Miko writes:

‘I needed to get onto the advanced training program. It was like I had put my whole life on hold and I was not a valid human until I got accepted onto this program. I needed my bosses to support my application, which meant I would have to keep working tirelessly and produce perfect surgical results.’


Sadly for Miko, the severe burnout she experienced as a result of these unacceptable conditions led her to resign and give up her dream of being a surgeon, a career she excelled at and has once been passionate about.

ASMOF’s actions

ASMOF has now written to the CEO of the relevant LHD in order to establish a dialogue around unsafe hours and unsafe rostering practices within the LHD which are unacceptable and dangerous. We believe the current arrangements need considerable improvement.

We have requested that the LHD undertake a transparent review of DiT working hours in consultation with ASMOF, and have sought commitment that we work together to improve processes to ensure DiTs and patients are not placed at risk.

Ongoing advocacy -The Alliance

Two key issues raised in the blog that the ASMOF/AMA Alliance have been campaigning on for the last three years are safe working hours and bullying.

The Alliance opposes all forms of bullying and discrimination and we believe all employees deserve to work in an environment free from bullying and be treated with dignity and respect. We have been working with NSW Health in challenging bullying and harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace in addition to our campaigning on the issue of safe working hours and workload.


The Australian and international evidence about the damaging effects of excessive hours of work is undisputed. Unsafe working hours and practices are a significant risk factor in the health and wellbeing of DiTs. The evidence suggests that reducing excessive work hours, increasing available resources and exploring new rostering initiatives are three prevention solutions that should form part of a broader range of wellbeing and support mechanisms for DiTs.


The Alliance has successfully campaigned to get NSW Health to agree to new safe working hours standards including ensuring that no Medical Officer is rostered to work for more than 14 consecutive hours, and that rosters are arranged so that there is a break after rostered shifts of at least 10 hours. This includes ensuring DiTs are not subjected to unsafe working hours and consistently receive adequate time to rest and recover between their shifts.


Unfortunately the standards are clearly not being upheld and we will continue to hold employers accountable.


Any Alliance member experiencing bullying, or any other form of discrimination or who is expected or asked to work unreasonable, excessive or unsafe hours should contact the Alliance so that we can assist.


Call 1800 117 670 or email: