With increasing evidence that physicians and physicians-in-training are facing increased burnout, depression and suicide, the AMA adopted policy this week aimed at improving physician and medical student access to mental health care. The new policy would help reduce stigma associated with mental health illness that could unfairly impact a physician’s ability to obtain a medical license and impede physicians and medical students from receiving care.
“We are concerned that many physicians and physicians-in-training are dealing with burnout, depression and even suicidal thoughts, and we find it especially concerning that physicians have a higher rate of suicide than the general population. In fact, in March the AMA partnered with leading CEOs in the health care industry and declared that physician burnout is becoming a public health crisis that needs to be addressed,” said AMA Board Member and resident Omar Z. Maniya, M.D. “Today’s policy builds on the AMA’s current efforts to prevent physician burnout and improve wellness. We are committed to supporting physicians throughout their career journey to ensure they have more meaningful and rewarding professional experiences and provide the best possible care to their patients.”
The policy calls on state medical boards to evaluate a physician’s mental and physical health similarly, ensuring that a previously diagnosed mental health illness is not automatically considered as a current impairment to practice. Additional policy calls for researching and identifying the risk factors for and rates of depression, burnout and suicide among medical students, including encouraging medical schools to confidentially gather and release this information from its students who authorize consent.
Through the AMA’s Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability initiative launched in 2013, the AMA is partnering with physicians, leaders, and policymakers to reduce the complexity and costs of practicing medicine so physicians can continue to put patients first. As part of this work, the AMA’s Steps Forward program offers a series of practice transformation modules designed to improve the health and well-being of patients by improving the health and well-being of physicians and their practices.
The AMA has also adopted numerous policies over the past several years to reduce physician burnout and create the medical school of the future to ensure a healthier practice environment for physicians and close the gaps that exist in medical education to improve the health of the nation.