Kentucky doctors could get burnout help under bill with Senate approval

By Sarah Ladd (Kentucky Lantern)

This story discusses suicide, burnout and mental health. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

The Kentucky Senate unanimously passed a bill aimed at preventing burnout among physicians on Tuesday. 

Republican-backed Senate Bill 12 cleared committee last Wednesday, also unanimously. 

The bill would offer protections for Kentucky doctors who seek mental health help from wellness programs by stating they do not need to report their participation in such a program and they cannot be dismissed for not reporting it. 

The bill does not relieve physicians of reporting conditions that would hinder their judgment, the Lantern previously reported.

Primary sponsor Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, said on the floor that, “Burnout is a long term reaction marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization or lack of accomplishment feeling.” 

“Some physicians are exposed to life and death decisions and situations every day,” he said. That strain, he added, can pass from them to others around them. 

Dr. Evelyn Montgomery Jones, the president-elect of the Kentucky Medical Association, previously testified before the Senate Standing Committee on Health Services that COVID-19 has been a “significant driver” behind physician burnout. 

Consequences of such burnout include lower patient satisfaction, Jones said, as well as low morale, high turnover, increased rates of substance abuse and even suicide

“While the stigma surrounding physician’s mental health is multifaceted,” Jones said, one reason is “exposure liability.”  

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook and Twitter.

Reporter McKenna Horsley contributed to this report. 

Photo:  Sen. Donald Douglas sponsored the bill aimed at helping physicians with burnout.