The numbers are staggering. According to a recent survey by The Physicians Foundation, 6 in 10 physicians said they’re experiencing feelings of burnout. One in three said they felt hopeless or without a purpose. Despite their mental health issues, only 14% sought treatment.
The Physicians Foundation President, Gary Price, MD, notes that “Nearly one-fifth of physicians indicated they know of someone who considered, attempted, or died by suicide since the start of the pandemic alone, a time when many physicians have suffered trauma and loss.”
Dr. Price adds that “over the past year, the pandemic has shone a light on a problem that physicians have always faced: the stigma surrounding accessing mental health support and services for fear of looking weak or believing they will lose their license and credentials” (MedpageToday).
“It’s these people, our colleagues — maybe even ourselves — who are more likely to leave medicine, or worse, die by a preventable suicide death.”
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to address these concerns.
This piece of advice from Barbara L. McAneny, former president of the American Medical Association:
“Physicians can reduce stress and improve workplace enrichment by spending more time with patients and less time bogged down with bureaucratic tasks” (healio.com). “We have to pull ourselves back into the profession and look to teams that must be led by physicians. We have to stop wasting time on meaningless tasks, and we have to get back our control of how the profession is managing patients.”
Dr. McAneny’s comments are taken from her presentation on day 3 of the “Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit.”
Physicians can be advocates for themselves, but Dr. McAneny suggests the onus is on CEOs of hospitals and administrators of institutions to reprioritize the responsibilities of the clinicians they employ.
She called for less time filling out bureaucratic paperwork and “quality measure” box–checking and more time on the human-to-human, doctor-patient interactions.