May 17, 2022
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that surgeons and other healthcare professionals sometimes suffer from mental health issues. The environment in which they work exposes them to situations that can deplete and threaten their mental health, resulting in second victim syndrome, moral injury, compassion fatigue, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance use, and more. During times of distress, it is critical to ensure that healthcare institutions and systems can provide individuals who are experiencing these problems with the care they need.
A US News and World Report article, How to Help Doctors Get Mental Health Care: Change the System, identifies structural barriers that might inhibit healthcare professionals from seeking help. These barriers include concerns about information that they must share in state licensure, hospital/health system privileging and credentialing, and medical liability insurance applications. In addition, surgeons may be hesitant to seek treatment because of commercial insurance credentialing, legal discovery that might reveal use of mental health resources and that may allow this use to be used against them in a lawsuit, and mental healthcare requirements such as treatment within the employee’s healthcare system.
With the recent passage of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, release of the CDC’s Mental Health Protection Plan for Healthcare Workers, and introduction of Health Workforce’s Resiliency Awards, health systems are being encouraged to implement changes that address barriers to seeking mental healthcare. Implementing evidence-based strategies across the spectrum of system levels, from the department level to state level, can create a healthy culture and environment.
Some examples of these strategies include:
Visit the ACS Surgeon Well-Being web page for more information and resources that can help you protect your mental health.