September 15, 2017 6:34 pm

Burnout a ’cause for concern’ for Nova Scotia doctors: survey

Disengagement and cynicism are two effects of high ‘burnout’ rates among Nova Scotia doctors, a recent study finds. Alexa MacLean has more.

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Doctors Nova Scotia, the organization that represents all of the province’s practicing physicians, says that a new survey indicates burnout is a serious problem for doctors in the province.

According to the survey, 50 per cent of the 372 doctors surveyed say they’ve experienced burnout symptoms.

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“These statistics are a major cause for concern and we need to do something about it immediately,” said Dr. Manoj Vohra, President of Doctors Nova Scotia.

“The state of the physician workforce in Nova Scotia at present is fragile. I believe we all have a role to play in getting things on track.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia doctor calls family doctor shortage a ‘crisis’

Compared to a 2008 national sample of physicians by the Canadian Medical Association, the survey findings show doctors in the province are less engaged and more overextended while scoring higher on exhaustion and cynicism.

Doctors Nova Scotia says that the survey’s results are not just a problem for the physicians.

In a province with extensive wait lists for family doctors, burnout is something that can cause issues for patients as well.

“I have to make sure I don’t burnout so that my 1,400 patients aren’t left orphaned,” Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan told Global News on Friday.

However, the cause of burnout is a lot harder to determine. The data from the survey doesn’t point to an easy answer.

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Some of the data points to the stress of amalgamating nine separate health authorities into one.

“The system has undergone tremendous change over the past two or three years, with the introduction of the Nova Scotia Health Authority,” said Kevin Chapman, Director of partnerships and finance for Doctors Nova Scotia.

“We’ve also heard physicians face-to-face tell us about the challenges that they’re facing and the burnout and the fears that they have about being able to deliver the care that their patients need.”

One of the survey’s recommendations is that physicians in the province and the government need to start talking about how to manage stress.

“It starts with, first of all, knowing that somebody is truly listening to what we’re saying is causing our problem and not just paying lip service and trying to hide behind their words but really coming forward with a hand stretched out to help us,” said Jayabarathan.

The survey was emailed to 2,287 physicians in February, 1,088  opened the message and 372 doctors responded to survey.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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