What can we do to stop physician burnout in Canada?
by Stephen Kish
We all know about the long wait times when we visit family doctors in Canada.
This is a special problem in psychiatry as most psychiatric help is provided by these first line treatment providers.
Now we are told that physician “burnout” (exhaustion, cynicism, and low professional accomplishment) will only make matters worse and the lines longer.
Carolyn Dewa, who heads the CAMH Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Mental Health, and Dr. Philip Jacobs from the Institute of Health Economics in Alberta recently published an estimate in BMC Health Services Research of the percentage of physicians in Canada who are suffering from burnout and the consequences associated with this stress.
Family physicians treated about 113 patients per week. About 35 per cent of family physicians, at all age groups, experienced some burnout and were dissatisfied, with 14 per cent of those in the 55 to 64 year old group planning to reduce clinic hours and 31 percent planning to retire.
Drs. Dewa and Jacobs estimate that the physician burnout will take $213 million out of our healthcare system due to early retirement and reduced clinic hours.
So, what is the answer? Find more money to hire more physicians?
A “front line physician” writing for a conservative newspaper recently recommended that Canada’s entire health care system itself be overhauled by moving to a combination private-public payer system in order to reduce demand for services.
In a non-scientific survey, I walked down the hall and asked a few CAMH clinicians for their solutions to physician burnout.
- More rest and relaxation
- More working in groups than being isolated
- Stress reduction and relaxation therapy
- Implementation of user-friendly electronic medical record systems to streamline reporting