Senate passes healthcare provider protection act

The legislation would authorize $35 million for a grant program aimed at teaching providers strategies to address wellbeing issues.

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill seeking to provide funds for physician wellbeing.

According to a news release from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Senate passed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act on Aug. 5, sending the bill to the House of Representatives for final approval.

The act would authorize $35 million for a Health Resources and Services Administration Title VII grant program aimed at training health professionals, students, and residents in evidence-informed strategies to address and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health issues, and substance abuse. It would also authorize $10 million for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention campaign encouraging health professionals to seek treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.

Both programs which would be authorized by the bill received $140 million in emergency funding as part of the American Rescue Plan.

The House has yet to schedule any action on the bill.

An epidemic among doctors

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for the country’s healthcare professionals to address their own wellbeing as a survey of health care workers found that 93 percent reported stress, 86 percent had anxiety, 76 percent reported exhaustion and burnout, and 75 percent felt overwhelmed. Caregivers also reported significant problems with insomnia, appetite changes, and physical symptoms like headaches and stomach pains.

The Medical Economics 2020 Physician Burnout Survey, 65 percent of physicians indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased their feelings of burnout.

A big contributing factor to burnout in any profession is a lost sense of autonomy, and 32% of the doctors surveyed indicated that COVID-19 had contributed to a general feeling of helplessness. Physicians were already dealing with insurance companies about courses of treatment for patients prior to COVID-19, as well as being pressured to see more patients either by administrators or just to keep their practice open

While the some of the greatest stressors of the pandemic like anxiety over personal safety and the health of our family members due to a lack of personal protective equipment, financial insecurity, and lockdown isolation, many physicians are still facing challenges.

Here are some tips to help deal with stressors:

  • Accept that having negative feelings and emotions as normal
  • Pay attention to your emotions
  • Challenge your beliefs
  • Ask yourself how you want to feel and practice cognitive reframing
  • Practice mindfulness daily
  • Engage in some degree of in-person communication
  • Know that you’re not alone and that distress can get better