Canadian Medical Association

As emergency departments buckle under pressure due to staffing shortages and Canadians struggle to find the care they need in a timely manner, a newly released survey illustrates the despair Canadian physicians are experiencing amidst the biggest health care crisis of our times.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has released the full results of its 2021 National Physician Health Survey. Conducted in November 2021, the survey shows a physician workforce that is struggling under the weight of an under-resourced health system and pandemic challenges.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly half of respondents (48%) screened positive for depression, up significantly since the CMA's 2017 survey (33%).
  • One-quarter (25%) of physicians and residents experience severe (10%) or moderate (15%) anxiety
  • Eight in 10 (79%) physicians and medical learners score low on professional fulfillment; less than six in 10 physicians and medical learners indicate being satisfied with their career in medicine

Preliminary results released in March showed that more than half of physicians and medical learners (53%) had experienced high levels of burnout and that nearly half of respondents (49%) were considering reducing their clinical work in the next 24 months.

"Every day, we hear physicians expressing despair at the state of our health system, the strain that all health workers are facing and the fact that our patients are suffering," says Dr. Alika Lafontaine, CMA president. "Since this survey was completed, the strain on health workers has continued to grow with no signs of a break coming. Physicians need help and support so they can continue to provide quality care to patients."

The 2021 National Physician Health Survey is available here. It illustrates the many factors impacting physician health and wellness including the pandemic, increased administrative burden, lack of work-life integration, bullying and harassment in the workplace and lack of professional fulfillment.

Between October and December 2021, more than 4,100 physicians, medical residents and medical students completed the survey, up from nearly 3,000 CMA members in 2017.

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