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Burnout a major problem for doctors
[Posted: Fri 27/03/2009 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Mental health problems in doctors may be more common than has been previously recognised, according to a leading psychiatrist.
Prof Jim Lucey told a conference today that some UK studies show that more than a quarter of consultant physicians have a mental health diagnosis during their career.
"A similar number of GPs have also have also been shown to suffer from mental health disorders at some stage. The issues associated with poor mental health include increasing workload, lack of career control and lack of support," he said.
Prof Lucey said burnout could be classified as primary or secondary.
Primary burnout occurs in professionals who on reflection realise they should never have chosen this way of working at all.
Secondary burnout arises through a combination of background factors and mitigating factors in previously high-functioning doctors.
"A key stress factor is work-home interface or interruption of family life."
Prof Lucey said burnout can be a major issue for some psychiatrists.
"As resources and support diminish, the clinician feels more and more vulnerable; leading to what has been described by others as a feeling of 'systemic betrayal' and a sense of 'burnout'."
Prof Lucey said health organisations can address burnout through a willingness to acknowledge the problem, and impartial peer support is important.
"Improved work-life balance arrangements such as shared employments or part-time initiatives are also worthwhile. Most of all health employers need to build trust with their clinical staff so that faith in the mission and vision of the organisation is rewarded with consistency and fairness."
Prof Lucey stressed that psychiatrists need to address their own health issues.
He was speaking at a conference to mark the launch of the new College of Psychiatry in Ireland.
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