David O. Barbe
The AMA adopted a new policy at its annual meeting to address concerns regarding physician and medical student burnout, depression and suicide.
The policy aims to improve physicians’ access to mental health care services while reducing associated stigma to allow physicians to seek necessary care without fear of penalization or licensing restrictions, according to AMA.
“We are deeply concerned that physicians and physicians-in-training are oftentimes discouraged from seeking mental health services because they are afraid that publicly disclosing a mental health issue would unfairly stigmatize them and impede their ability to obtain a medical license,” David O. Barbe, MD, president of AMA. said in a press release. “Too many of our physician colleagues are dealing with burnout, depression and even suicidal thoughts — with physicians facing a higher rate of suicide than the general population.”
Under the policy, state licensing boards are encouraged to require that physicians disclose mental health conditions that impair their judgement, competence, ethics and/or professionality in their medical practice, according to AMA.
AMA urges state boards that do not wish to ask health-related questions on medical licensing applications to use the following language: “Are you currently suffering from any condition for which you are not appropriately being treated that impairs your judgment or that would otherwise adversely affect your ability to practice medicine in a competent, ethical and professional manner? (Yes/No).”
The new policy expands upon AMA’s previous efforts to reduce physician burnout and create the medical school of the future, according to AMA.
“We must do everything we can to improve physician wellness and eliminate any barriers that stand in the way of physicians accessing needed mental health care services so they can have more meaningful and rewarding professional experiences and provide the best possible care to their patients,” Barbe said in the release. – by Alaina Tedesco
Barbe is president of the AMA.