United Nurses of Alberta is slamming Health Minister Tyler Shandro for suggesting staff vacations are causing emergency room problems. (Black Press Media files)

United Nurses of Alberta is slamming Health Minister Tyler Shandro for suggesting staff vacations are causing emergency room problems. (Black Press Media files)

Physicians were suffering burnout and then the pandemic made it worse, UBC study finds

Burnout prevalent among 68 per cent of doctors – likely a reflection of issue globally, says researcher

As vaccine rates tick towards herd immunity and governments reveal plans of a post-pandemic summer filled with travel and gatherings, nurses and doctors trying to help COVID-19 patients are likely looking towards some serious rest.

A new study from the University of British Columbia, released Friday (June 11), is shedding light on physician burnout and the concerning need to address it.

Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion and depersonalization—which is a lack of care about the work. It also affects workers’ sense of personal accomplishment.

Researchers from UBC’s faculty of medicine surveyed 302 internal medicine physicians from two Vancouver-based hospitals between August and October 2020, and found burnout prevalent among 68 per cent of doctors. A further 20 per cent said that they had either considered quitting the profession or already left a position.

ALSO READ: B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Pre-pandemic, physician burnout was already on the rise before tripling the odds in the past year and a half, according to Dr. Nadia Khan, research lead and medical professor.

Increased bureaucracy – doing more so-called “non-physician work” – the sheer number of patients being seen, and the increased number of extended weekend and evening shifts have taken a toll on physicians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers suspect.

“I think that this issue is not unique to just these two hospitals. It is widespread. I would say global,” Khan said. “It’s also not just amongst physicians but likely affecting other healthcare workers.”

From those surveyed, burnout was prevalent among 71 per cent of women compared to 64 per cent of men. It was found to be highest (74 per cent) among younger physicians between 36 to 50 years old.

WATCH: New COVID-19 testing machine takes load off B.C.’s virologists and labs

Women were two times more likely to report emotional exhaustion and feeling less personal accomplishment, while visible minority physicians had 1.8 times higher odds of feeling low personal accomplishment in comparison to white respondents.

So why is burnout such a concern?

“We know physicians who are burned out are more likely to make medical errors regardless of work unit safety measures,” Khan explained, adding that physicians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.

It also comes at a cost to tax payers, with early retirement and tired physicians reducing clinical hours, equating roughly $200 million, according to a separate study.

The findings highlight the need to focus more on mental health and the working conditions in the healthcare industry, the researchers concluded.

“Physicians don’t have time to work on solutions to make patient care better when they are just barely getting by,” Khan said.

“We need to create a sustainable workforce because a more sustainable and thriving healthcare system means better quality of care for patients.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusUBC

Just Posted

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

(File)
“Gift card scam,” and “grandparent scam” are on the rise, Cranbrook RCMP say

Folks are falling for these scams: “No Government agency or reputable company will ever ask anyone to pay with gift cards in lieu of their fines”

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Most Read