Junior Doc Strikes Have Med Students “Concerned”

Junior Doc Strikes Have Med Students “Concerned”

BA students not so much

Junior doctors across the country have been protesting harsh working conditions and pay cuts, much to the concern of med students about to enter the health sector. Lamenting government changes and the already brutally challenging circumstances, one student Emily* said she was “not sure how long they’re expecting the goodwill of burnt out, overworked and underpaid staff to last.” 

Following accusations of a ‘hiring freeze’ and the announcement of a 12% pay decrease to specialty services, the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZDRA) hosted a nationwide 25 hour strike on May 7th calling for change. Doctors have continued to strike in many regions following this event, after an average 18% pay increase from HNZ was reportedly not enough to justify abhorrent working conditions.

As the protests continue, med students watch on in agony either from the relative comfort of their studies or, in most circumstances, from their clinical placements. With protests and changes in working conditions showing no sign of ceasing, Critic Te Ārohi spoke with several medical students in their final year to gauge their concerns.

Speaking to the events, Emily* stated, “The strike is an absolute last resort in response to the poor working conditions and pay cuts for critical specialties. If we continue as is, patients will be at risk.” Lina* argues that the pay cuts to general practice, pathology, radiation oncology, psychiatry and public health “implies that some medical specialties are more important than others.”

Talking of their own concerns entering the career, Emily said, “Facing being overworked and burnt out within a couple years of starting the job is very daunting.” For both Emily and Lina, it was the hours of work which haunted them. “At the end of the day we know we will be working long hours […] Do you really want someone that's worked ten days in a row, working their second 15 hour shift looking after your nana?” said Lina.

Both cited their concerns in this environment, with Emily already stating that she was “thinking about at what stage will be best for me to move to Australia.” Lina’s desires were merely for “a semblance of work life balance, or at least recognition of the work.” 

Lina and Emily both argued that this would have a flow-on effect to those thinking about entering the profession. “Not sure it is worth getting into tens of thousands of debt for a job that will burn you out in less time than it takes to train in it. Hardly surprising people are moving overseas for better pay/conditions,” said Emily. 

“There is already a labour shortage for the areas that are having pay deductions,” said Emily. With labour shortages continuing as pay parity decreases, med students are fretful that the issues junior doctors currently face may be replicated for some time to come.

*Names changed.

This article first appeared in Issue 13, 2024.
Posted 7:27pm Sunday 26th May 2024 by Hugh Askerud.