Sustaining a People Centered Health Workforce: The Mental Health Experiences of Health Professions

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:51
Oral Presentation
Ivy BOURGEAULT, University of Ottawa, Canada
The experience of mental health issues among health professionals is an area of growing concern, yet it is seriously understudied. Mental health issues experienced by health professional workers are uniquely challenging because of the importance of mental acuity in their knowledge service role, the potential impact on clients and their professional license to work. We can ask, how can we create a people centered health workforce without attending to the mental health issues of health professionals. The role gender plays is also conspicuously absent as an explicit focus despite the fact that nearly 80% of health professionals in Canada are women. In this paper, we present preliminary data that addresses the range of mental health and work-related experiences of four health professional groups: dentists, midwives, nurses and physicians. These professions were chosen for their range of work contexts – from unionized salaried positions to private practice – and because of their differential gendered compositions – dentistry and medicine being feminized and nursing and midwifery being traditional feminine professions. The data we present are derived from three sources: insights from a scoping review of the literature; a preliminary online survey of nearly 300 health professionals and data analysed from the Statistics Canada 2012 and 2013/14 Canadian Community Health Surveys on these groups. These latter two sources also include data from other professional groups outside of health care for purposes of contrast: academics, teachers and accountants. In brief, we find that the mental health experiences of health professionals are predominantly work-related; regardless of the gender of the respondent, all health professionals feel women experience more work-related mental health issues and although absenteeism is high among health professionals, there is a significant amount of presenteeism particularly where professional work structures and culture do not enable leaves of absence for mental well-being.