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Physician Stress and Burnout: A Growing Epidemic

Your Society will create programs to help

Physicians don’t need a study to tell them that stress and burnout in their professional ranks is increasing as health care system demands become increasingly more complex and intrusive. But in December 2015, an update from a three-year study evaluating burnout and work-life balance from the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association shows that American physicians are worse off today than they were three years earlier. Meanwhile, these factors remained largely unchanged among U.S. workers in general, resulting in a widening gap between physicians and workers in other fields. The study compared data from 2014 to metrics they collected in 2011 and found that now more than half of U.S. physicians are experiencing professional burnout.

In addition, an article in the Dec. 8, 2015, issue of JAMA Network revealed that 28.8% of resident physicians report depression or depressive symptoms, and therefore, are entering their careers depressed. Stress was better treated in the past, and physicians could take a day off each week, for example, to unwind. Residents worked longer hours but they were able to reap the rewards by staying connected with cases through their duration. At all levels, physicians and residents fear admitting to being stressed, an ingrained form of thinking in which one must never fail the patient, show weakness, and seem unaccustomed to hard work.

To actively address these concerns, the Chicago Medical Society (CMS) recently approved the outline for an educational series. As recommended by the Public Health Committee, in a resolution, CMS will involve psychiatrist members in planning the comprehensive member benefit to be offered through the Society.

Specifically, the resolution calls for CMS to develop a series of programs, which may include continuing medical education credit, to assist physicians in the early identification and management of stress. The programs will concentrate on the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of responding to and handling stress in physicians’ professional and personal lives, as well as help physicians recognize when to seek professional assistance for stress-related difficulties. Your Society feels that these programs are needed more than ever to help member physicians find ways to relieve stress and burnout so they can continue to provide high-quality care to their patients. The resolution was adopted in February 2016.

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