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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stressed physicians reluctant to seek support

They cite lack of time and fear of hurting their careers as reasons to avoid employee-assistance programs.

By KEVIN B. O'REILLY, amednews staff

Nearly 80% of physicians at an academic medical center said they experienced a personal crisis within the past year, yet most said they would not seek support from physician-health services or employee-assistance programs.

The 108 surgeons, anesthesiologists and emergency physicians surveyed said they experienced a wide range of stressful events, such as serious illnesses or deaths in their families and severe adverse events in their patients. But most they said they were unlikely to turn to institutional sources of support, with 40% saying they would be willing to consult physician-health services and 29% open to using employee-assistance programs. About a third of the doctors had never even heard of these services, said an Archives of Surgery study published in March.

The reason offered most frequently for not getting help was lack of time, with 90% of the physicians surveyed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston citing it. About 70% feared a lack of confidentiality, negative impact on their careers or the stigma of mental illness. Nearly half feared legal consequences or thought “using services means I am weak.”