Canadian Medical Association

Physician health has been a critical issue for several years, impacting physicians and medical learners themselves, the patients they care for and health system performance. 

With many physicians facing unprecedented levels of change, uncertainty, stress and strain during the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding the health and wellness issues facing physicians and medical learners in Canada is a priority of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). 

National Physician Health Survey

The first National Physician Health Survey (in 2017), which surveyed nearly 3,000 physicians and residents across Canada, provided valuable baseline data on a range of wellness indicators. The 2021 National Physician Health Survey (NPHS) remained open for five weeks and received more than 4,000 responses from Canadian physicians and medical learners. New to the 2021 survey was the inclusion of both CMA members and non-members, as well as medical students. Additionally, 2,000 non-physicians were surveyed to allow for comparisons with the general population. 

Significantly, the study uses an equity lens to examine the health and wellness of specific at-risk subgroups with the goal to inform system-level changes and improve physician health and wellness — from medical school through retirement.

Finally, the 2021 NPHS focused more heavily on workplace factors and less on behavioural ones, given we know that workplace factors are stronger predictors of wellness outcomes. The questions asked in the survey fell within four main areas of focus:

  • Demographics
  • Psychological factors
  • Behavioural factors
  • Environmental/workplace factors

See full report

The results from the latest NPHS allow the CMA and other stakeholders to identify individual, organizational and system-level changes needed to better support physicians, residents and medical students, and to create a healthier medical culture and more effective health care system.

How can the data be used?

National data sets such as the NPHS and others can be utilized by researchers, leaders, educators and health organizations to identify physician wellness challenges, help build a case for support, drive advocacy and advance physician health and wellness programs. Research demonstrates that investing in physician health and wellness helps to protect physicians, patients and the health care system.

Learn more about the CMA’s work to drive change including:

Further reporting and analyses

Data from the NPHS will be further analyzed and released in a series of phases: 

  1. Prevalence data and differences in outcomes according to demographics 
  2. Regression analyses to identify the drivers of key wellness outcomes
  3. Comparisons with general population

Other physician wellness data 

Healthy Populations Journal
Physician Burnout in Canada: Challenges and Possible Future Interventions

Ontario Medical Association
Healing the Healers: System-Level Solutions to Physician Burnout OMA 

Doctors Manitoba
Physician Abuse and Mistreatment: A Growing Concern

Alberta Medical Association
Improving the mental health of physicians in Canada

Mental Health Commission of Canada
Exploring Two Psychosocial Factors for Health-Care Workers

Questions about the NPHS? Please contact us at physicianhealth@cma.ca.

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