|November 18, 2020
Medical Professionals Health Program Available
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rear it’s ugly head, according to the New York Times, thousands of medical practices are closing, as doctors and nurses decide to retire early or shift to less intense jobs. According to an American Journal of Medicine study, the prevalence rate of physician burnout affects approximately half of all practicing physicians; twice that of the general working population in the United States and with an estimated cost of roughly $5 billion per year related to reduced clinical productivity and increased physician turnover.
The increased stress leading to burnout can be quite persuasively argued as a system problem, not an individual disease and must be addressed with systematic solutions. The Times piece points to a July survey of 3,500 doctors by the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit group. About 8 percent of the doctors reported closing their offices in recent months, which the foundation estimated could equal some 16,000 practices. Another 4 percent said they planned to shutter within the next year. The article also makes the reference that, “about half already said their mental exhaustion was at an all-time high.” Unfortunately, a new ACEP poll of emergency physicians on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic shows many are concerned about seeking mental health care for fear of stigma and potential negative effects on their career.
It’s important to know, and be reminded, about the Medical Professionals Health Program (MPHP). Established in 1987 by the Maine Medical Association, the MPHP's goal is to assist healthcare professionals by providing confidential and compassionate monitoring, assistance and advocacy. Physician health programs exist nationwide as an important confidential peer to peer services to physicians and, in Maine, other health professionals in need of support for your health and well-being. PHP's have extensive expertise in education, outreach, and long-term monitoring of physicians who have recovered from mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Studies that review the long-term model of PHPs confirm physician recovery rates are markedly higher than the general population.
MPHP Director, Guy Cousins and staff welcomes those who are voluntarily seeking assistance, whether from stress and burnout, or from substance use illnesses, mental illness, behavioral disorders, or those experiencing legal issues related to any of the above. Please reach out if you feel you are in need or extend this information to a colleague or fellow staff member.
In addition to the MPHP, the Maine FrontLine WarmLine, established with direct assistance from the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians, is staffed by volunteer professionals activated through Maine Responds, which includes licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical counselors, social workers, and nurse practitioners, and has now been expanded to include retired teachers and educators. The FrontLine WarmLine is available from 8 AM to 8 PM, 7 days a week by calling (207) 221-8196 or Text the word “frontline” to 898-211 for support.
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