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OPINION: Physician burnout is becoming an issue for medical students

Physician and medical student burnout is becoming an epidemic and needs to be resolved by ensuring that hospitals and schools are providing the proper mental health services. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ PEXELS

Burnout among medical students has become an epidemic in the U.S., with over 50% of medical students reportedly experiencing it, according to a Jun. 2022 article by Medscape.

Medical students carry this burnout into their careers, resulting in harm to themselves and their patients. It is imperative that medical schools prevent this mental health decline by improving mental health services.

Medical students at the University of Michigan found that a lack of mental health resources implemented at their university left them struggling to manage their stress. 

During my first year as a medical student at the University of Michigan, I went through a terrible time marked by my own depression and anxiety,” said medical student Claire Collins in a Feb. 2022 University of Michigan Medical School article.  

“Although I had support from our academic counselors, I didn’t have many options involving peers or professionals that I could easily turn to for help. This left me feeling really isolated in my struggles.” 

Due to the difficulty of finding mental health resources, Collins and her peers decided to take action to improve the university’s wellness program by incorporating “M-checks”. Without opting out of the program requires students to meet with counselors. Implementing this service has increased the use of psychiatric services at the university. 

Currently, medical students are experiencing burnout before even entering the field because they are overworked, have strained finances, are emotionally drained and have little to no personal time, according to a Jan. 2021 article from The Well-Being Index. 

This problem is greatly affecting the mental health of these workers due to the high amount of stress. Burnout in the workplace can lead to depression or substance abuse, according to a 2021 NPR article

USF medical students need to combat these factors to prevent early burnout before entering their field. Thankfully, USF Morsani College of Medicine provides wellness services for medical students who are experiencing any of these burnout factors, like MyStudent Support and HELPS where students can receive virtual mental health counseling, according to the USF Health website. They also provide a peer support network where students can help each other with any personal or academic issues they may be experiencing.

The college can still do more to combat these causes of burnout by requiring periodic mental health checks for all students. This would allow them to assess which services are needed the most.

Burnout in medical students is becoming a serious problem that needs to be addressed by hospitals and schools. It is important that these institutions provide mental health services to help the student and patients.