Canadian Medical Association

Preliminary data from National Physician Health Survey also suggests half of Canadian physicians considering reducing clinical work

Preliminary data from the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) National Physician Health Survey offers a concerning outlook on the health of physicians, battered from over two years of a global pandemic. The survey, conducted in November 2021, shows more than half of physicians and medical learners (53%) have experienced high levels of burnout, compared to 30% in a similar survey conducted in 2017. As well, nearly half (46%) of Canadian physicians who responded are considering reducing their clinical work in the next 24 months. 

“We should be deeply alarmed that half of the physician workforce is considering reducing their clinical workload. The downstream impact to patient care will be significant as we are already experiencing access to care issues,” says Dr. Katharine Smart, CMA president. “There is no question that the pandemic has greatly affected our health workforce. As we look to rebuild our health care system, we need to prioritize the people who work within it and call on all governments to take action now.”

The preliminary survey data has been released following an emergency meeting of close to 40 national and provincial health organizations representing Canada’s health workforce. The organizations were united in their call for urgent action to address the worsening health workforce crisis, with key priorities focused on creating a robust source of data, implementing a national human health resources strategy and rebuilding Canada’s health care system for the future. 

Additional insights from the National Physician Health Survey reveal that:

  • 59% of physicians indicated that their mental health has worsened since the onset of the pandemic. This worsened mental health has been attributed to: increased workload and lack of work-life integration (57%), rapidly changing policies/processes (55%), and other challenges.
  • Nearly half of physicians (47%) reported low levels of social wellbeing, which has increased from 2017 data (29%). Emotional and psychological wellbeing have also suffered compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The CMA National Physician Health Survey was conducted in the fall of 2021. The survey was open for five weeks and received more than 4,000 responses from Canadian physicians and medical learners. A fulsome report will be published later this year.

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