Focus on Physician Well-Being: New AMA Policy Aimed at Preventing Medical Student, Physician Suicide

The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy aimed at identifying patterns that could predict and ultimately prevent suicide among physicians-in-training. The new policy calls on the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education—the accrediting bodies for medical schools and residency training programs respectively—to collect data on medical student, resident, and fellow suicides.

“Studies have shown that physicians face a higher rate of suicide than any profession in the United States. While we have been working hard to reduce burnout and increase access to mental health services for physicians and medical students, it is imperative that we also work toward fully understanding the problem,” says AMA Board Member Ryan J. Ribeira, MD, MPH. “We believe that collecting data on the incidence of suicide among physicians-in-training will help us identify the systemic factors that contribute to this problem, and ultimately save lives.”

The policy builds on the AMA's continued commitment to reducing physician and medical burnout by fighting it on every front, improving wellness, and supporting physicians throughout their career journey. Through the AMA's Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability initiative launched in 2013, AMA says it is partnering with physicians, leaders, and policymakers to reduce the complexity and costs of practicing medicine so physicians can continue to put patients first.

As part of this work, the AMA's Steps Forward program offers a series of practice transformation modules designed to improve the health and well-being of patients by improving the health and well-being of physicians and their practices. These online modules focus on improving physician wellness, preventing burnout, and increasing resilience.

The AMA is planning to issue a report on the most efficient and accurate mechanism to study the actual incidence of medical student, resident, and physician suicide that will be introduced at the 2019 AMA Annual Meeting of the House of Delegates with recommendations for action.