Telehealth trauma recovery: A lifeline for doctors in the digital age

Dr Henry Kurtze

A general population survey conducted in twenty-four countries showed that more than 70 per cent of respondents experienced a traumatic event and an estimated two million Australians have experienced PTSD. Trauma is a global Phenomenon.

This number grows by 10% when we look at the healthcare profession. Nearly 80% of doctors have experienced a distressing patient event in the last year, and many go on to suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Nine months ago, Dr Henry Kurtze and his team launched a trauma-informed meditation app that has delivered over 18,000 sessions worldwide. Now, they are turning their sights on creating a new website to help users understand the effects of trauma on the body and mind. Wombat Telehealth psychology clinic went live last week, and they are taking on new patients who are experiencing symptoms related to trauma, PTSD and burnout.

The app will be available for anyone who needs it. However, we were particularly interested in discovering what an app like this could mean for doctors. The provision of affordable and rapid trauma support accessible from telehealth home solutions for doctors is a groundbreaking development in healthcare, particularly in addressing the mental health needs of medical professionals. Doctors often face high-stress environments, long hours, and emotionally challenging situations, making them susceptible to trauma and burnout. Having access to trauma support that integrates with their busy schedule could make a huge difference.

Medrecruit is passionate about supporting the healthcare industry to improve the health and well-being of all doctors. Until 2017, the Declaration of Geneva stated that the physician's foremost duty is to the patient and that the health of the patient must be the doctor's first consideration (with no consideration for the doctor's own health and wellbeing), but in 2017 the World Medical Association voted unanimously to include: I WILL ATTEND TO my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.

Medrecruit founder, Dr Sam Hazledine played a part in that amendment, and we will continue to advocate for and support doctor well-being initiatives within the industry.

We were honoured to play a small role in supporting Henry's vision to create this online clinic. Dr Henry Kurtze is currently working as a locum doctor with Medrecruit across Northern New South Wales.

We caught up with Henry to learn more about his project and what an app like this could mean for doctors.

Can you tell me about Wombat and what inspired this initiative?

Wombat is a mental health company in Australia. Our mission is to deliver affordable and rapid care to people who are suffering from trauma, PTSD or burnout. In the form of our trauma-informed meditation app or via psychology sessions on our telehealth platform. We want all Australians to be able to access the tools they need to start feeling better and get back to living life with vitality.

What kind of services will Wombat offer?

Many people discovered Wombat via our meditation and breathwork app. It stands out because it is curated by health professionals, including doctors, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists. It quickly became clear that this group of people who were enjoying the app were looking for expert psychologists, and we felt like we could create a ground-breaking clinic, so we did!

Can you tell me a bit about the Wombat Team?

Wombat in an international and multidisciplinary team. From Berlin to Byron Bay. We are agnostic, open and driven by science and compassion. Doctors, meditation guides, psychologists and even nature therapists. We know that humans require comprehensive inputs to start feeling better, and we don't limit ourselves to a single channel. We recognise the need for evidence to best support patients in an attainable and realistic way.

What are the benefits of healing trauma from home?

Many people live in isolated settings where finding psychologists is impossible. So, finding a trauma-trained psychologist you can see in 3 - 4 weeks is an absolute miracle for some people. Especially those who live in rural and remote settings have experienced hardship or trauma via natural disasters and really cannot tap into the right mental health networks to get better.

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Why do you think taking care of mental health and wellbeing is important for doctors?

Our mental health is everything. I have seen the tragedy of so many doctors losing their careers, well-being and, in some cases, their lives because they did not slow down to get some perspective. Medicine is a career. It should not be a sword to fall onto. When I tell people about the things I encounter daily, they cannot believe it. Medicine normalises the extreme. However, all healthcare workers are exposed to distressing sensory inputs and ideas that can cannibalise them. Healthcare workers take care of all of us, and so, as a society, we should nourish them and create better safety mechanisms. Wombat will offer a 5% discount to all Medrecruit doctors who want access to our psychologists for trauma or burnout services.

How do you think a service like Wombat could help doctors?

The Wombat app is a good place to start because it can teach you some neuroscience-driven techniques to rapidly tap into a parasympathetic state and slow the mind down. There is not much point in starting therapy if you are in an extreme state of physiological arousal or physical distress. We need to get embodied first and feel calm as a foundation. Then, we can access higher cortical regions and tap into TF-CBT, EMDR or therapy sessions to start to unpack some of the experiences that might drive our trauma or burnout. So, in summary, start with the body and breath and then explore more cerebral options like the psychological services we offer at our online clinic.

Providing doctors with affordable, rapid trauma support accessible from home is a significant stride towards protecting their mental health.. It acknowledges the unique challenges of the medical profession. It offers a practical, empathetic solution to support those who dedicate their lives to caring for others.

Dr Henry Kurtze and the team at Wombat Health have been kind enough to offer a 5% discount to Medrecruit doctors who may have experienced a traumatic event and would like to access the services.

Jordy Black
29 January 2024Article by Jordy BlackMedrecruit Editor