"For example, we dealt with a surgeon who was having a very difficult time, in her case, with transferring over from open surgical procedures to robotic surgical procedures," he said. "She was experiencing a great deal of stress over that process. But we were able to successfully connect her to a support structure that was able to help her deal with it."
"State medical and physician support programs, which are already in place in every state in the country, have been extraordinarily successful in helping doctors with this and other kinds of stress-related problems," Bedient said. "The difficulty is that physicians, like people in general, often have trouble figuring out where to turn for help. So we really have some work to do to encourage physicians to look at their own stresses, figure out what kind of help they need, and to feel comfortable reaching out for that help when they need to."
Survey co-author Dr. Colin West, at the Mayo Clinic's divisions of general internal medicine and biomedical statistics, agreed that "efforts to promote physician well-being are critically important."
"This is relevant to patients and doctors alike, because physician burnout and dissatisfaction have been linked to poorer patient outcomes, medical errors, patient dissatisfaction and serious physician issues such as suicidality," West said. "Also, with health care reform and anticipated increased demand for front-line care providers, the severity of distress among these physicians is particularly concerning."
"The findings of increased distress in front-line providers," West added, "and worsened distress among physicians relative to other groups of working Americans, should further stimulate targeted research on potential solutions for physicians."
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