Help for Addicted, Impaired Physicians Underutilized

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media , March 25, 2013

"But the sorts of things that people notice most commonly are abnormal behaviors. Doctors really work together a lot, especially in hospitals or big medical groups, and if one or more physicians notice that Dr. Jones after being a great physician after 5 or 10 years is suddenly not available for telephone calls at night, is coming to clinic late or is more disheveled than usual and patients are complaining about his behavior, those are the first signs."

Once a committee has a physician in treatment, that physician must remain under the committee's supervision for five years in a very intensive inpatient program for a few months then with regular check-ins, drug tests, and attendance at 12-step program sessions once the physician has returned to the workplace.

"Over five years, about 70% of physicians do well, but the other 30% either relapse and lose their license, or they die," said Norcross.

"Doctors admit that they sweep this issue under the bed. And we have to turn this around, because it's not just about doctors, but patients too. If our doctors are burning out and having these problems, we all need to work to make this better. Because we want doctors who are inspired by their profession, and unless we reach under the bed and pull this issue out and talk about it, it's not going to get better," Norcross said.

Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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