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Views And Reviews

Doctors’ wellbeing: learning from the past can help improve the future

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 01 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4101
  1. Agnes Arnold-Forster, postdoctoral research fellow, Wellcome Trust investigator award
  1. University of Roehampton, London, UK
  1. Agnes.ArnoldForster{at}
    Follow Agnes Arnold-Forster on Twitter @agnesjuliet

Much of the current focus on doctors’ emotional health is preoccupied with piecemeal solutions

Recently, there has been much focus on doctors’ emotional health and the threat of burnout. There are campaigns to excise bullying from certain specialties, as well as research into wellbeing, institutional policy initiatives, and think pieces, all of which attest to this seemingly new concern.

Much of the conversation, however, is historically inaccurate and is coloured either by nostalgia for a fictitious past or is preoccupied with piecemeal initiatives that take little account of the structural, political, and historical context of the NHS.

In my current research, I conduct oral history interviews with practising and recently retired surgeons. I ask them to narrate their lives and we explore the emotions of their personal and professional experiences. When asked about the emotional cost of …

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