It’s time we rethink the popular myth that being a professional in health means accepting high workloads, mounting personal pressure and performing whatever amount of unpaid work it takes to get our work done.
Being a medical scientist, a psychologist or a pharmacist, by the very nature of the professions and the work, means being a professional. Too often when discussing workplace issues like increasing workloads and insufficient staff available to cover workloads the notion of accepting this as part of a professional role is raised.
Unfortunately when the work keeps piling up without the staff needed, it will create significant pressure. Situations where people get over-worked and neglect their own health because they have to plough through the work are apparent in every workplace. Invariably whenever these sorts of issues are raised, someone is likely to insist people should be ‘professionals’; and that excessive workloads go with being a ‘professional’.
It’s not clear to us as to why raising issues about workloads is not being ‘professional’.
What we can say about being ‘professional’ is that there is nothing professional in allowing your health to deteriorate because executive managements are seemingly incapable of managing workloads appropriately. There is nothing ‘professional’ about having excessive workloads because managements refuse to employ sufficient staff to do the work. And there is nothing ‘professional’ about working through meal breaks and after rostered shifts in order to get more work done.
In fact, excessive workloads in many respects rob you of your ability to be professional.
When you are stressed and overworked errors can occur and mistakes can be amplified. Stress and being overworked can lead to serious health problems leading to increased time away from work. As you will know, errors and mistakes can make a major difference in a diagnosis or treatment; or critically delay a diagnosis for urgent treatments to be established.
We know from experience in representing members in disciplinary processes resulting from an error being made that there is not a single employer that accepts a defence of stress and anxiety from my high workload and pressure to get the job done.
It’s when you’re stressed and overworked that you’re most at risk of making an error.
Excessive workloads are not about you and your level of professionalism; it’s increasingly clear excessive workloads are about management refusing to properly manage workloads by ensuring the availability of sufficient staff. It’s about management lacking the professionalism they demand of you.
These are among some of the big issues we have to take up as we head into negotiations for a new public sector agreement. At its core these issues speak to the growing concern that many vital services are reliant on you doing unpaid work; and an unspoken workplace culture of doing unpaid work.
It is up to us fight back. It is up to us to protect our professions, wages and hard won conditions and rights at work. And the best way to fight back is to strengthen our collective voice and our bargaining strength by increasing our membership – please encourage your colleagues to join the Union.
— Paul Elliott