Up to one-third of doctors may be burned out

Up to one-third of doctors in Ireland meet the criteria for burnout, and this could have major implications for patient care, it has been claimed.

According to the new director of health and wellbeing at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI), Prof Gaye Cunnane, the issue of doctor health and wellbeing needs to be addressed urgently.

"Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by long-term exposure to chronically stressful conditions without adequate reprieve. It is not the same as depression, but there are parallels. Burnout is a specifically work-related condition," Prof Cunnane explained.

She noted that a recent study by Dr Blanaid Hayes of Beaumont Hospital showed that up to a third of Irish hospital doctors meet the criteria for burnout, while up to 10% meet the criteria for serious depression or anxiety.

"Those figures are extremely concerning, but are poorly recognised in the health service. They have implications for patient care - doctors in suboptimal health will find it more difficult to look after patients, putting enormous strain on the health service," Prof Cunnane said.

She insisted that doctor health and wellbeing is ‘an essential component of a well-functioning health service'.

"Doctors should be doctors, spending quality time with patients and engaging in work that is professionally meaningful. Burnout increases in direct correlation to the time spent on non-clinical work. Humans need to feel valued, to know that their voices are being heard and to be part of a community or team," she noted.

She said that a healthy work environment is key to maintaining a healthy workforce.

"When health metrics emphasise quantity not quality, when pressure is added to existing workers because of severe staff shortages, when multiple job vacancies exist because the working conditions are not attractive to prospective candidates, burnout increases," Prof Cunnane explained.

She made her comments at the recent Irish Medical Organisation AGM in Kerry.

Also speaking on the same topic, IMO president, Dr Padraig McGarry, said that it is essential that employers develop programmes to support doctors throughout their careers.

"As doctors, we can sometimes prioritise the health of our patients ahead of our own. We need to be more aware of how we are feeling so that we can perform at our best. That way, patients will get the optimal level of care," he added.


[Posted: Mon 29/04/2019]

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