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79 per cent of doctors report worsening mental health in pandemic

Some 79 per cent of doctors reported that their mental health was made worse by the current Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new IMO survey conducted in December and January.

Overall, 90 per cent of doctors have experienced some form of depression, anxiety, stress, emotional stress or other mental health condition related to or made worse by work.

The findings on doctors’ wellbeing and mental health were presented at the IMO virtual AGM today by CEO Ms Susan Clyne, who described the data as “quite shocking”.

Seven out of ten doctors are at high risk of burnout, with public health doctors and NCHDs at highest risk, according to the survey.

More than half of doctors (57 per cent) reported not being able to take their scheduled breaks to eat/drink during the working day.

Some 36 per cent of doctors reported not being able to take time off since the pandemic started. In addition, 66 per cent of doctors reported difficulty securing childcare during the pandemic.

The main concerns arising for all doctors are pre-existing staffing shortages, made worse by Covid illness and requirements to self-isolate; the growing backlog of waiting patients; and the impact on personal health and wellbeing.

The majority of respondents believe there is a perceived stigma around mental health issues and few doctors seek help from support services but instead confide in family or friends or attempt to deal with issues alone. Forty per cent of doctors do not have their own GP, while 64 per cent do not feel adequately supported by the HSE.

Over 80 per cent of doctors still have a strong desire to practice medicine, found the survey. Nevertheless, 39 per cent stated their career was not as expected or they were not fully satisfied with their career choice.

“The results of this survey reveal worryingly high levels of stress and burnout among doctors in Ireland,” according to the survey report.

“While absenteeism, redeployment and new ways of working pandemic have no doubt compounded issues of stress and burnout in the workforce it is clear that long standing issues in relation to staff shortages, long working hours and excessive workload, difficulties getting locum cover, are the major factors contributing to poor mental health and well-being among the medical workforce.

“While actions are needed to address stigma, encourage help seeking and promote self-care, we  urgently need to address the current man power crisis facing the Irish healthcare system which has  put enormous pressure on our doctors and largely accounts for the high levels of burnout and stress seen in this survey.”

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