Medics go on alert for stress spotting

September 17, 1999

Dundee University's medical students are logging how alert and optimistic they feel in a pioneering study that aims to cut their risk of divorce, suicide and alcoholism in later life.

Nick Halpin of Dundee's counselling service, speaking at the annual student wellbeing conference organised by Glasgow and Strathclyde universities last week, revealed that the university will next month launch a five-year study on putting welfare issues in the medical curriculum.

Dr Halpin said: "Doctors are prone to all sorts of pitfalls, experiencing the highest rates of stress-related problems, marital breakdown, suicide and substance abuse of any professional group." By focusing on wellbeing during training, the university hoped that students would become more aware of the benefits of looking after themselves, and might also have the motivation and confidence to promote wellbeing initiatives in their professional work.

Dundee has already issued pilot questionnaires to second and third-year students. Over a week they will log their alertness and use a checklist to look at items ranging from food and water intake to how they use their spare time and how they relate to other people.

There will also be presentations on topics such as diet, exercise and emotional intelligence.

"The new medical curriculum is a very busy one. The fact that Dundee's medical curriculum is making room for this is really impressive. It's going to be integrated into their timetable. It's not an add-on."

Dr Halpin said the students would have access to a local outside expert who had devised a personality test, used internationally to train management teams.

"This allows students to get feedback with a 23-page report, a unique profile of their personality that hopefully allows them to get insights into their strengths and weaknesses."

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