How are you?
I find that as physicians, we are often the one asking this question as we care for patients on a daily basis. But how often are we asked?
I have the privilege of being a Family Physician who treats many physician patients. What I have been seeing recently is an area of great concern to me. Doctors are not exactly the poster children of good health. We have a long history of working until we get sick and working when we are sick. Add a two year pandemic filled with uncertainty and disruptions to how we practice, and it’s no surprise that burnout is on the rise.
So how are we, as a profession?
We knew before the pandemic that physicians and medical learners have higher rates of burnout, depression and suicidal ideation. Our recent member survey illustrates just how common these concerns have become:
- 48% of physicians and medical learners have signs of burnout
- 35% have signs of depression
- 7% have thought about suicide in the last year
Our survey also found that 41% of physicians are considering retiring, leaving Manitoba, or reducing their clinical hours over the next three years. That’s two in five. And a top contributing factor is burnout and being frustrated by “system issues” outside of physicians’ individual control. When it comes to medical learners, we found that Students and Residents had the highest rates of burnout, depression and recent suicidal ideation.
I’m a month into my term as President, and seeing these numbers is difficult.
Our profession is in crisis.
I’ve had a front row seat to this myself. I experienced burnout early in my career, as a medical student and then again as a new physician working in an unfamiliar community. I found myself questioning my choice of profession. I did find my passion for medicine again, thanks in large part to my husband and parents, who supported me and who continue to support me along with my son and my daughter and in-laws. I have been fortunate to have my family nearby. I know that may not be the case for everyone, especially our IMGs and residents.
Based on your feedback through the pandemic, Doctors Manitoba has made physician health a priority. Today, I’m happy to share new services and supports available to physicians, and some of the work we are doing to tackle broader institutional issues that are a barrier to physician health.
But before I do, I want to share the contact info for our Physician Health programs. Whether it’s for you, a family member, or a colleague, keep this info handy.
New and Expanded Services & Supports
We have two new physician health programs that will soon be available to all medical learners and physicians:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with mindfulness (CBTm): You now have access to a CBTm education program designed specifically for physicians and medical learners to improve your mental well-being through evidence-based self-management strategies. The program will teach key cognitive and behavioural concepts and how apply them, provide quality resources, teach skills and strategies to manage stress and improve well-being and connect participants with other physicians and medical learners in a supportive environment. Participation in this program is confidential. There are three courses available, including an online self-directed course, a facilitator-led online course starting in September, and an online skills workshop beginning in October. Learn more here.
- Peer Support Program: For some issues, talking to a colleague can make a big difference. We are developing a formal physician peer support program to help address burnout through collegial support and connections. While not available just yet, we are working with WellDoc Alberta to develop the program. This responds directly to what we heard from members who wanted accessible peer support throughout the province.
We have also supported expansions to the Physicians at Risk and MDCare programs with:
- Expanded psychiatry and psychology resources for assessments and clinical care.
- Enhanced urgent access to Independent Medical Exams for CPSM.
- More seamless access to addictions specialty care through MDCare.
- Opening a new Physicians at Risk office and introducing virtual individual and group peer support for expanded access across Manitoba.
Last July we welcomed Dr. Shelley Anderson to our staff team in the newly created position of Medical Director for Physician Health. You can reach out directly to Dr. Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her confidentially at 204−809−5105 ext 130.
These new and expanded services and physician health initiatives respond directly to the needs and concerns we’ve heard from physicians. They’ve been made possible with funding from Doctors Manitoba, along with the support of several organizations we’ve successfully enlisted as partners, including Shared Health, the University of Manitoba and the Manitoba government.
These improvements build on our three year Community of Practice initiative, which has brought together physicians and health system leaders in three RHAs to focus on improving physician health, with a particular focus on addressing the systemic or institutional barriers that create distress and burnout. This major initiative is in the final stage, with action plans expected this fall. The support we’ve received from the CMA, MD Financial and Scotiabank have been critical in seeing this project through.
Back to what we learned in our member survey. The top reasons physicians and medical learners do not reach out for help is because they had no time, they were worried about confidentiality or professional consequences, or because it is hard to admit when you need help. I can relate to all of these reasons on a personal level. But as President, I also have an insiders view to know that the services are confidential and that CPSM has changed its approach to physician health (learn more here). And as a mid-career physician who has faced burnout myself, take it from me: make the time to make your well-being a priority, otherwise, it will catch up with you at a time and place that is not of your choosing.
Please reach out for help and support, whether it’s talking to a colleague or seeking support from the physician health programs available to you. There will be a time that each and everyone of us needs it.
Dr. Candace Bradshaw she/her
President 2022 – 2023
P.S. In case you missed it, earlier this month I wrote to you about our win in getting the government to withdraw record keeping regulations that could have added 72 minutes of documentation per day to physicians’ schedules. Excessive paperwork is a top driver in physician burnout. Learn more here.