High Levels of Burnout: A Snapshot of the Current State of Physician Health
With today being World Mental Health day, we thought we’d take some time to discuss an important issue in the healthcare sphere: physician burnout. Through their education and profession, doctors are probably more aware of the negative effects of stress than most people. Despite this, physician burnout is continuing to rise at alarming rates, with 1 in 4 Canadian doctors reporting being burnt out.
This statistic is one of the many reported on in The Canadian Medical Association’s recent Physician Health report, conducted with approximately 3,000 CMA members. Other key findings also highlight the concerning state of physician health and wellness in the nation – calling for physician health to be a priority on both an individual and systematic level.
We breakdown some of the key takeaways and implications of the CMA’s report.
Across the 3 facets of emotional, social, and psychological well-being, at least 8 in 10 physicians seem to be doing well. However, a significant percentage of physicians indicate struggling, especially when it comes to social well-being.
29% of physicians score low for social well-being, followed by 13% scoring low for psychological well-being, and 9% for low emotional well-being.
This highlights the need for doctors to connect with others and to spend more time with loved ones. Sharing with your support system helps remind you that you don’t need to cope alone.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 82% of physicians report having high resilience – a character trait that is likely needed to get through medical school, residency, and as a doctor generally. However, despite recognizing their own resilience, doctors still need to be conscious of actively reaching out for help when they need it and realizing that they don’t need to deal with everything alone.
Burnout And Its Consequences
Burnout rates indicate alarming numbers, with over a quarter of physicians reporting high emotional exhaustion, 15% suffering from high depersonalization, and 3 in 10 indicating high overall burnout.
What are the consequences of the high burnout rate? Perhaps one of the most staggering statistics from the report is that 34% of doctors screen for depression. Can you believe it? That’s over in 1 in 3 physicians experiencing symptoms of depression. In fact, 19% of doctors report having suicidal ideation and thoughts within their lifetime, with 8% reporting having so within the last 12 months.
Differences Across Gender and Practice Status
Women physician have a 23% increase in odds of experiencing burnout compared to their male counterparts, along with a 32% increase in experiencing depression and a 31% increase of engaging in suicidal ideation.
This increased likelihood in burnout could be especially prevalent in new physician mothers, which highlights the need for proper and effective maternity leave resources – such as long-term locum coverage.
Another key finding from the report is that residents are significantly more likely to experience burnout (48% more likely), depression (95% increase in odds), and to have suicidal ideation (72% more likely). This emphasizes the need to include a larger focus on physician health and wellness in medical schools to prepare for the doctors for their residency.
Possible Reasons for Burnout and Stress
While it’s impossible to pinpoint one reason for the physician burnout crises, there’s several factors that are contributing.
One of the increasing pressures is the evolving complexity of healthcare. Physician workloads are increasing with more administrative and paperwork demands, while at the same time healthcare resources are decreasing. With the aging Canadian population, patients are having more complex medical problems – yet physicians are having more therapeutic options to study and choose from.
And finally, there’s a long-standing stigma in the physician profession that deters some from seeking help. With a culture that sends a message to doctors to always show confidence and hide vulnerability, it can be hard to ask for help.
It’s worth noting that this is the Canadian Medical Association’s first set of national data released on physician health, which in itself is a step forward for physician wellness. After all, how can we start to solve issues that we never talk about?