Our trusted provider of psychological PPE

January 13, 2021

PFSP utilization data - 2020

Dr. Sue Reid, Staff Anesthesiologist, Grey Nuns Hospital and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, University of Alberta, shares her personal experience with PFSP. She highlights the critical role PFSP has played in her own life and shares the voice of other physicians in Alberta.

I was post-call at home with my husband. Tradespeople were in the house measuring for new windows. I was sitting on the couch when months of work-related stress overwhelmed me. I was distraught and sobbing uncontrollably. I could not get myself together enough to even make the call to the AMA’s Physician and Family Support Program (PFSP), so my frightened husband did. A physician called us back and promptly organized the support and professional help I needed. That was 20 years ago, and I still remember that day very clearly.

Fast forward a few years and again the PFSP was my lifeline. An increasingly toxic work environment threatened to destroy my mental health, my marriage and my career in anesthesia. My PFSP intake physician compassionately assessed my situation and reassured me. Through the service provider, I was matched to an experienced, compatible therapist who I continued seeing for two years. Without her support, I have no doubt that I would have abandoned medicine.

Today, I take an antidepressant and have the great good fortune to work with supportive colleagues. And Tim and I are still married! I am a passionate advocate for physician health and for the unique and essential role of the PFSP within the AMA. I share my story because the stigma and shame around mental health prevents many physicians from seeking help, and I believe that the culture of medicine will change only when more physicians feel safe to share their own struggles with mental health.

The pandemic has created intense personal and professional stress. Everyone is dealing with fear, uncertainty, isolation and grief, but Alberta physicians are also enduring the stress of a sustained attack on our profession.

The 2020 PFSP utilization data clearly show the negative impacts of our current health care environment on physician health. Never has the demand for AMA’s PFSP been so high. Here are some examples:

  • 2,200 distinct callers contacted the assistance line in 2020 – an 18% increase over the previous year
  • calls due to occupational burnout/stress increased 59%
  • calls due to anxiety, stress and depression increased 27%
  • 1,144 counselling hours were used – 934 in November 2020 alone

Continue reading "Our trusted provider of psychological PPE" in the January-February 2021 issue of Alberta Doctors' Digest

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