Dr. Jane Lemaire, W21C Co-Lead of Provider Wellness, was interviewed by CBC Calgary about her research on the importance of preventing physician burnout, an occupational hazard. 

Some Calgary doctors are striving to change what can be a very unhealthy occupation.

Burnout can be an occupational hazard among physicans, said Dr. Jane Lemaire, a University of Calgary researcher and doctor.

“They suffer from depression, suicide, substance abuse, relationship problems … to a greater degree than other people,” she said.

“If you are a construction worker you’ll wear a hard hat and steel-toed boots to prevent you from being injured at work. Physicians, in their role, have this chronic stress and then they experience burnout.”

Many doctors don’t feel they can take breaks to eat or sleep and they have higher rates of burnout than other people, she said. One of her studies shows doctors who take time to eat healthy meals have the brain function of someone 10 years younger.

“We’re taught to be those superhuman invincible people and we really need to change that,” said Lemaire.

Lemaire now lectures medical students on balancing work and life. Alberta Health Services is looking at her research and considering setting up a physician health committee.

‘Unhealthy for my patients’

Dr. Ted Jablonski starts every morning with a 5 a.m. workout, but a few years ago he was working 80 hours a week, spending his days in a small town clinic and many nights at a hospital.

“The irony is you’re pushing yourself far beyond a normal limit and it then becomes unhealthy for me personally and it becomes unhealthy for my patients,” he said.

Jablonski was overweight, burned out and struggling with depression.

“We’re really good at giving advice, and I think we know what the right answers are. Whether we personally take those bits of advice, that’s the issue,” said Jablonski.