Doctors’ health

1 Comment

This article is co-authored** by (top row) Christina M. Nowik , Pamela Lai, , , (bottom row) Gillian Shiau, , , and Jasmin Yee, all of whom previously served on the Resident Doctors of Canada () Resiliency Working Group


For Canadian resident doctors, July 1st is more than a national holiday; it represents the day when newly-minted doctors become responsible for decisions in patient care.  While this is an exciting day, it can also be fraught with anxiety and stress. Over the course of residency, acute work-related stressors, including traumas and patient deaths, can negatively impact residents’ wellbeing.  Additionally, residents endure chronic stressors such as large debts, extended work  hours, and isolation from family.  These factors predispose residents to burnout. The is up to a staggering 75%. Resiliency interventions have been shown to work, and the time to begin implementing them nationwide is now. ...continue reading

is Deputy Editor at CMAJ


Rising awareness of the toll that is taking on our profession and our healthcare services has inspired numerous organizational physician wellness initiatives and resilience courses aimed at individual physicians. Yet, as experts discuss the of the system-level approach vs. the individual-wellness-training approach to addressing burnout, one key element seems to be all-but ignored: the healing power of the relationship between physicians and the patients they serve.

Dr. Tom Hutchinson, in his book, Whole Person Care: Transforming Healthcare (Springer International Publishing AG, 2017), suggests that we have lost touch with “the interior processes of healing and growth in the individual patient and the practitioner that give meaning to illness and to healthcare,” ...continue reading


Hissan Butt is a medical student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario


I recently learned that two Canadian medical students died in the past three weeks. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding these deaths.

However, this has not stopped worried Canadian medical students from speculating about the causes of death. The speculation arises not because of a desire to gossip. Rather, I think, it stems partly from a lack of information and partly because of fear. At the time of writing, most believe that the students died by suicide. One university has acknowledged the of one of the students, although the cause is not identified.

The silence is justified - we are told through unofficial sources – by a request from the families to respect their right to privacy. We are also told that talk might spark copying. Indeed, any decent person should want to respect the wishes of the bereaved families, to help them grieve and lighten their burden in this difficult time. There is no need for naming, but there is a need to talk. ...continue reading


is a family physician and the President and Chief Executive Officer of


Often when we talk about improving health care, we turn to the . Developed in by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in the United States, the Triple Aim captures three objectives for a better quality health system: Improving a patient’s experience of care, improving population health and doing this at a reasonable cost. It has become a way of thinking embraced by many health care systems around the world.

The Triple Aim takes a big-picture, system-wide approach that can be applied to any part of the health care system, as well as across all levels of an organization. The ultimate endgame is a sustainable health care system that patients trust and that contributes to healthier populations.

All great ideas get improved upon over time. ...continue reading

Magbule Doko is a family physician in Windsor, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at The University of Western Ontario


School. Career. Children. Partner. Parents. Siblings. Being a Doctor. Getting Older. Turning 30. Teaching the next generation of doctors. Next step in my career. In-laws. Body. Health. Meditation. Having another baby. Trying to make the world a better place. Trying to understand who I am. Vacation time. Couple time. Debt. Income. Work. People living. People dying. Crying. New life. ...continue reading

is a third year resident in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto


Last week was the first snowfall of the season in Toronto. Usually, the first sight of fluffy white flakes collecting on city streets would have me dreaming of strapping on my cross-country skis. This, year, however, the first snow left me huddled inside, frightened of slipping on ice.

Towards the end of September I badly damaged my ankle when attending a charity event. In a few moments I went from an active 30-something to someone unable to stand independently. After the paramedics got me to the nearest hospital, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was not “pain medication STAT” (that was the second thing), but instead “I’m a doctor. I hate being a patient.”

I later told myself that this was because I wanted to speed up communication and avoid unnecessary explanations. ...continue reading

Dr. Sabine Ziegler is a general practitioner with an interest in palliative care, practising in Ettlingen, Germany


For readers from Canada, a "mother land" of physician health, my reflections on physician health in Germany may surprise; the structures in Germany are not nearly as well developed as in the USA, Canada or Great Britain.

Doctors in Germany can prescribe and self medicate without any consultation or assessment by a colleague- which means drug misuse, including benzodiazepines, is possible. Long working hours, high professional responsibility and little recreational time lead to a large percentage of doctors feeling physically and psychologically affected. On top of that is the constant confrontation with suffering, fear and death. Doctors also often crumple under the high demands they create for themselves. It doesn't fit with a doctor’s self-perception to seek help for their own problems. Yet when a sick healer tries to cure himself most of the time it doesn't work. Every year around 150 German physicians end their lives. ...continue reading

Professor Dame Carol Black is Principal of Newnham College Cambridge, Expert Adviser on Health and Work to the Department of Health, England, Chair of the Nuffield Trust, and Chair of the Governance Board of the Centre for Workforce Intelligence. She was a keynote speaker at the recent


Whatever the nature of their work, whatever skills they bring to bear, however strong their calling and dedication, employees come under the influences of their workplace and of those who employ them. It is as true for doctors as it is for the drivers of tube trains, the builders of Olympic stadia or civil servants in Whitehall. The evidence, gathered painstakingly over many years, in such different arenas of work, is consistent and strong.   It leaves no doubt about the characteristics that we look for in identifying good work and a good workplace.

The effects of workplace influences are felt and measured to varying degrees in ways that are clear. First is the personal health and wellbeing of employees – their physical health and their mental health, the former often measurable declared, the latter often masked and hidden.

Second is the performance of the group, the team, and ultimately the institution for which they work. In health care such performance is measured in terms of the quality of patient experience, the safety of care and health outcome.

These measures correlate with features common to organisations which have achieved success in promoting staff physical and mental health and well-being. ...continue reading

1 Comment

is a general practitioner in London, UK, and a NIHR In Practice Research Fellow at the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry

, a young doctor with cancer, recently wrote a book called ''. It's a book for doctors ‘to be better able to understand exactly what being the patient is really like …” Other medical writers have also been motivated by the shocking realisation that medical education and clinical practice had taught them so little about what it’s like to be a patient, the particular problems that doctors themselves have in coping with illness and the health risks associated with their profession; loss of identity, shame and stigma, the need to be treated as a person and an acute awareness of mistakes were common themes of narratives.

Inspired by their stories, I have been leading teaching seminars with medical students, GP trainees, GP trainers, GP retainers, medical humanities students and and learned a few more lessons along the way.

Doctors’ illness narratives have a particular power ...continue reading

Domhnall MacAuley is a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK

“It was the loneliest I’ve ever felt,” said my consultant surgeon colleague as he described lying in his hospital bed the night before cardiac surgery. Even with all his surgical experience, familiarity of the surroundings, knowledge of his own hospital, and utmost confidence in his cardiac surgical colleagues and anaesthetist, he was scared. Despite what our patients might think, being a doctor is no defence against illness and doesn’t make coping with illness any easier.

But, we are our own worst enemies. We put immense pressure on ourselves and don’t want to let our medical colleagues or patients down. I once listened to a single-handed rural GP who had recent chest pain and was awaiting an angiogram. His greatest worry was that he could not get a locum to cover his patients ...continue reading