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Dec 20 2021

From the President: Keeping the focus on licensee wellness

 Categories:  President’s Message Comments:   2 comments  Print Friendly Version  |   Share this item
Board President John W. Rusher, MD
John W. Rusher, MD
In November, I had the privilege of being sworn in as President of the North Carolina Medical Board. I am humbled by this opportunity and pledge to do all I can to move the important work of this organization forward in a thoughtful and constructive manner.

As I begin my term as President, and we end a second year of medical practice amidst a pandemic, I find my thoughts turning to the state of clinician wellbeing.

We know that physicians, physician assistants and other member of the health care team have labored under incredible strain over the past two years. Although the specific challenges faced by individual licensees vary – whether it’s the grind of providing frontline care to patients sick or dying with COVID-19, weathering reductions in patient visits (and revenue) or struggling to rapidly integrate telemedicine to continue caring for patients – we know the profession at large is fraying at the seams.

The Physician’s Foundation 2021 Survey of America’s Physicians, which was released a few months ago, captured the sobering, if not entirely surprising, impact of COVID-19. The survey documented a more than 50 percent increase in burnout between 2018, before the pandemic, and 2021. Some 61 percent of physicians surveyed indicated that they often feel burned out (full survey results available here). Although this survey focuses on physicians specifically, we know that other medical professionals have been similarly affected.

Clinician wellness is directly linked to NCMB’s mission of patient protection and its statutory mandate to regulate medicine and surgery “for the benefit and protection of the people of North Carolina.” We know that physicians and PAs who are in distress are more prone to mistakes and errors. I see improving clinician wellness as a preventative step – an investment in the essential resource that is the health care workforce - that ultimately benefits patients.

The leadership at NCMB recognizes the tremendous toll burnout, depression, substance use and other mental and behavioral health issues are taking on its licensees. My predecessor and colleague, Immediate Past President Venkata A. Jonnalagadda, MD, had the forethought as Board President to establish a Wellness and Burnout Workgroup to ensure that NCMB continues to educate itself about trends and remains positioned to identify opportunities to make a positive difference. When I took the reins, I knew NCMB had to continue this work.

I invite you to read a companion article in this newsletter that reports the accomplishments to date of NCMB’s Wellness and Burnout Workgroup.

This ongoing work builds on NCMB’s earlier efforts to revise its license applications and annual renewal questionnaire to remove any requirement for a licensee struggling with mental health, substance use or other health issues to disclose whether they are in treatment. NCMB hopes that these changes, which were implemented beginning in 2017, have made it a little easier for a licensee who would benefit from professional help to seek it out. I am optimistic that NCMB can identify additional ways to ease unnecessary burdens on its licensees.

In closing, I’d like to say once again how grateful I am for this opportunity to lead NCMB as President. I welcome feedback and suggestions from licensees. If you have thoughts on where NCMB should be headed next to positively impact clinician wellness – or any other ideas to share – send email to

 Comments on this article:

Congratulations Dr. Rusher and thank you for your service!!

By Sean Tehrani, MD on Dec 21, 2021 at 4:37pm

I have a suggestion that you change the name of the workgroup and stop using the word burnout for what we are suffering. Many scholarly articles in various disciplines recognize our valid responses to the conditions we work in as moral despair, or sometimes as victims of human rights abuses. Most health professionals recognize that the word “burnout” inappropriately places the responsibility or cause of the problem back on the suffering individual rather than on the broken systems that put us in these dilemmas that cause despair. Self-care doesn’t fix broken systems.

I have complained to state agencies about the lack of affordable insurance offered in NC for 2022 for people who qualify for stipends on ACA. I haven’t received any valid explanations of how this could be allowed to happen or any responses even acknowledging the problems this will create for families and the doctors who know them and try to serve them. Who cares about these people? I think maybe we have too much “self-care” going on already.

By Rebecca Love on Dec 22, 2021 at 7:14pm
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