Care for the Caregivers – AMA Adopts Policies on Student, Resident Mental Health

The American Medical Assoc. (AMA) recently adopted new policy aimed at ensuring medical students and resident and fellow physicians have timely and confidential access to the medical and mental-health services they need during their medical training. The new policies will help physicians in training maintain their personal health and well-being and reduce burnout so they can provide the highest-quality patient care.
“Many physicians in training do not seek out treatment for physical, mental-health, or addiction issues because they are concerned about confidentiality, the possible negative impact that receiving treatment could have on their future career in medicine, or burdening colleagues with extra work,” said AMA board member and medical student Omar Maniya. “With a high number of medical students and residents experiencing depression, burnout, and suicide, and too many physicians overlooking their own health needs, we must do everything we can to reduce the barriers and stigmas that keep them from receiving care.”
To help address concerns about confidentiality, the new policy specifically calls on state medical boards to refrain from asking applicants about past history of mental-health diagnosis or treatment, and only focus on current impairment by mental illness or addiction, and to accept ‘safe-haven’ non-reporting, which would allow physicians in training who are receiving mental-health treatment to apply for licensure without having to disclose it.
The new policy also encourages medical schools to create mental-health-awareness and suicide-prevention-screening programs that would be available for all medical students at their discretion. The policy asks that these programs offer students anonymity, confidentiality, and protection from administrative action, and provide proactive intervention for any student identified as at-risk by mental-health professionals.
These policies build on the AMA’s strategic work over the past several years to reduce physician burnout and create the medical school of the future. The AMA is committed to ensuring a healthier practice environment for physicians and closing the gaps that exist in medical education to improve the health of the nation.