Protecting and improving the mental health of physicians during and after the COVID‑19 pandemic
Canadian physicians have faced a number of challenges to their mental health and wellbeing during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Many are on the front lines treating patients sick with COVID-19, others have had to rapidly adapt to continue delivering routine care, and like many Canadians some have lost jobs or face reduced income from the cancellation or operations and clinics. In addition, many physicians were already at risk of poor mental health prior to the pandemic with national surveys showing high rates of depression and burnout. Taken together, there is reason to be concerned that COVID‑19 may result in worsening mental health for Canadian physicians. There are three objectives of this research project: First, to examine in general how the mental health of physicians has been impacted by COVID-19; Second, to identify the characteristics of physicians whose mental health has decreased during the pandemic; Third, to determine if physicians impacted by COVID‑19 are receiving the mental health services they require. To complete each of our objectives, we will use a word leading innovative database that links a registry of all physicians who have a license to practice medicine in Ontario (more than 50,000 physicians) to their own health care use and their health outcomes. We will specifically look at how health care visits – including emergency department visits, hospitalizations and outpatient visits to psychiatrists and family physicians – related to depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviour, and harmful substance use (e.g. alcohol, opioids, illicit drugs) have changed during and after the pandemic. We have partnered with physician wellness groups and physician organizations across Canada – including the Ontario Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association – who plan to use information generated from this project to improve delivery of mental health services and advocate for policies that support the resilience and well-being of the physician work force.