by Scott Humphreys, MD, Medical Director, Colorado Physician Health Program (CPHP)

Fear. It is a tremendous force. A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. After speaking with hundreds of fellow physicians, most of which have specifically sought help with the Colorado Physician Health Program (CPHP), I have witnessed that fear is a major player throughout our careers. Fear that we won’t match for residency, palpable imposter syndrome, the impending uncertainty of medicine as a field, even the fear of our lives after medicine. Each fear expressed takes a toll. But we chose to be physicians because the reward of helping others outweighs those fears.

The foremost fears that arise during conversations are concerning confidentiality of seeking care and the stigma associated with mental health. “Will the licensing board (or my employer) find out that I came to get help?” is asked almost every single time I meet with a physician who is struggling. If our passion, our career, our calling could be taken from us we adamantly resist. These two fears, confidentiality and stigma, are plaguing our ability to get help. Earlier this year, Medscape detailed that 51 percent of surveyed physicians believed “depression says something negative about me.” Additionally, the Lorna Breene Foundation found the No. 1 and No. 2 reasons for doctors not seeking care were fear of licensure and then credentialing.

All of this is why I come to you with tremendous excitement. As you read throughout this edition of Colorado Medicine, we are introducing a program that helps breakdown those fears and helps remove the perceived barriers. One phone call. One conversation. Sometimes that’s all we need to feel supported. Perhaps that is all we need to overcome our fear. As a physician, I completely understand your hesitation, your fears in seeking help. But I came to you today to assure you that we are here. You may access support that is completely confidential, with no judgement. Through the newly established Doc2Doc Wellbeing Consulting program you are connected to a fellow physician who has expertise in how to stay well and how to thrive in medicine. My colleagues and I are here to listen. We understand. I know your fears, am familiar with why this career is so challenging and am excited to help you find your love for medicine again!

In the words of your peers:

"I cannot emphasize enough how valuable a resource CPHP has been, and I continue to encourage colleagues who are struggling either personally or professionally to reach out and make contact. I can say unequivocally that it saved my life, my family, and my career."

"The team of professionals at CPHP were professional, understanding and efficient. With their support and perspective, my love for medicine returned. I recognized that in order to provide the best possible care to my patients and their families, I also needed to care for myself."

Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, Final Word, Resources, Initiatives, Physician Wellbeing Resource Center