Physician Health

Physician Wellness at the Forefront

These are unprecedented times of stress and strain on the profession. While COVID-19 has exacerbated cracks in our healthcare system, it has also brought long-overdue conversations around physician health to the forefront.  

The National Physician Health Survey reveals that 50% of physicians indicated that their mental health has worsened since the onset of the pandemic. Whether a mental health condition, a substance use disorder, or other health condition, all instances related to concerns of physician health are underreported. So too is the profession’s participation in physician wellness support programs.

Prioritizing Physician Health

Physician health is a priority for the College as we are tasked to ensure patients are receiving competent medical care.

Physician health is a priority for the College as we are tasked to ensure patients are receiving competent medical care. Each physician’s health situation is unique and is approached respectfully, sensitively, and with the utmost confidentiality

To the extent the physician’s health permits, our focus is to ensure the physician is supported to maintain a safe practice. In some instances, this may include ongoing physician monitoring, changing scope of practice, or a leave of absence from practice.

Duty to Report

Physician health concerns are significantly underreported by the profession. When a physician has reasonable grounds to believe that another physician is unwell, there is a professional obligation to report this concern to the College. This professional obligation to report an unwell physician arises from the College’s responsibility to uphold patient safety and to protect the integrity of the health profession. The obligation arises whether the physician in question is a patient or a colleague.

Reporting to the College is not the same as filing a complaint. When a physician health issue arises or is identified during the investigation of a complaint, the matter is moved out of professional conduct and into the physician health stream.

Medicine is moving away from its stoic culture in which the unwell physician often suffered in silence. A growing awareness of the stresses and strains that impact physician wellness is taking root in the profession. There is a growing number of peer support and medical resources available to physicians.

The College does not provide direct treatment but connects physicians to available resources including:

  • Doctors Nova Scotia’s Professional Support Program (PSP) provides confidential peer-to-peer support for members and their families who are dealing with personal or professional problems. PSP counsellors are based across Nova Scotia, have no affiliation with licensing and regulatory bodies, and are not related to university training programs.
  • The Canadian Medical Association’s Physician Wellness Hub aims to improve physician wellness and mental health individually, at the system level, and to promote a collaborative approach to physician health and well-being.