EM Physician, You Don’t Have to Heal Thyself

July 14, 2020 12:47 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

WACEP President’s Message, July 2020
Ryan Thompson, MD, FACEP

Medicine has a history of at best ignoring, and at worst shaming, physicians who struggle with mental health. It is long past time for that to change. Today’s EM physicians face unprecedented challenges and ever-mounting pressures. In addition to managing the increasing risk of contracting COVID at work, the physical demands of wearing PPE all day, and dealing with increasingly complex and seriously ill patients, many EM physicians across the state are seeing cuts in pay or slashed hours, adding financial pressures to the mix. 

While there has always been an element of thrill-seeking and relishing in the stress of a busy ED, we must recognize the toll the job takes on each of us. It is time to end the stigma associated with seeking therapy or counseling, and recognize it for what it isself-care. Just as a physician who is ill cannot take the best possible care of their patients, neither can one struggling under a mountain of stress. We owe it to our patients to be at the top of our game when caring for them, and that means seeking out mental health care when it’s needed.

 Many physicians fear being labeled as “problematic” or “less-than” if they seek care. If you are a medical director, make sure that your physicians are not being asked to report on seeking counseling, as this can be a huge deterrent for physicians to get the care they need. Both ACEP and WACEP are against physicians being forced to report their mental health care.

If you feel like you could benefit from counseling, ACEP offers free, confidential sessions via phone, text, or chat.  If you are in southeastern Wisconsin, the BRaVe (Building Resilience Virtually) Clinic also offers free and confidential remote counseling (braveclinic@mcw.edu).