Mental health help is available for physicians

Medical Economics Journal, Medical Economics September 2020, Volume 97, Issue 13

Don't assume that you can't get mental health counseling as a physician. Many state laws have changed in recent years, allowing doctors to get the help they need without jeopardizing their license.

Physicians struggling under the strains of the pandemic, regardless of whether they are treating a constant stream of patients in a hot spot or wondering when anyone will return to their office, often think they cannot seek professional counseling.

Fear of losing their state medical license is a big deterrent against getting professional help, but those fears may be misplaced. “Every physician has to look at their state guidelines,” says Andy Swanson, M.P.H., CMPE, vice president of industry insights for the Medical Group Management Association. “The majority of states now have changed their licensure requirements and how they are addressing the mental health of physicians. They have evolved significantly in the past decade.”

He says physicians should not rely on the historical norm of saying nothing or else they’ll lose their license. “Those are rapidly becoming kind of antiquated, old-school thoughts. Doctors need to educate themselves on what rules they are being governed by and then make sure they are living within those rules,” he says.

Many medical schools are devoting more time to physicians’ mental health and wellness and even encouraging counseling in off hours, says Swanson says. “It’s far from perfect, for sure, but I think the environment in medicine is becoming far more conducive to physicians getting the help they need through this,” he adds.