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Survey shows Canadian doctors have an alarming burn-out rate

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A recent survey conducted by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) suggests that 54 per cent of Canadian doctors have symptoms of burn-out and it is a problem that physicians themselves don’t like to talk about.

The outgoing CMA President Dr Granger Avery said doctors have many pressures in their daily lives, and are exposed to high levels of stress in the course of their profession.

The CMA believes that building resiliency and addressing systemic issues impacting physicians’ health must be addressed to deal with physician burnout.

Dr Avery believes doctors face mountains of paperwork and increasing regulatory requirements. When doctors begin to suffer from overload, stigma often prevents them from seeking the help they need.

“That’s whether looking for a consultation, following up on an operation, whether it’s transferring a patient from one level of service to another, these things often require the doctor to make repeated phone calls, repeated interventions to get what should be a relatively simple piece of work done,” he said.

“So, that’s very frustrating and annoying for a physician who has been brought up and trained and focused on helping people, not doing that administrative work.”

Dr Avery believes the issue should be confronted head-on beginning at medical schools with discussions about resiliency. The survey of Canadian medical student survey shows 37 per cent are burned out at any one time.

“We’re trained with a requirement for perfection and nobody wants to hear that the doctor made a mistake. Nobody wants to hear that the doctor isn’t 100 per cent and yet we’re human,” he said.

The CMA also believes that the health care system should nurture its support for health care workers to ease the burden on doctors and provide good health care results to have them work in teams with other health care professionals.

The CMA meeting in Québec City had more than 600 participants from across Canada and the world and featured discussion on a wide range of health care issues, including physician health and burnout, opioid use in Canada and medical aid in dying. The Canadian Medical Association represents more than 80,000 doctors.

The AMA is keenly aware of doctors’ health issues in Australia.

The latest AMA audit of working conditions for doctors in Australian public hospitals shows that one in two doctors (53 per cent) are working unsafe shifts that place them at a higher risk of fatigue, with one doctor reporting an unbroken 76-hour shift.

The AMA recently welcomed the COAG Health Council decision to develop a nationally consistent approach to mandatory reporting provisions for health practitioners, following months of lobbying and advocacy from the Federal and State AMAs, highlighted by discussions in face-to-face meetings between Health Minister Greg Hunt and AMA President Dr Michael Gannon.