A recent study by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) revealing significant burnout among health-care workers has Southlake Hospital's critical care medical director concerned about the quality of care and access to care.

"It is no surprise to me whatsoever - on everyone, the last two years has been a huge grind," said Dr. Barry Nathanson.

On Wednesday, the CMA released its findings from a November 2021 study which found 53 per cent of Canadian physicians are experiencing burnout, compared to 30 per cent from a similar survey conducted in 2017.

"Different people in different parts of our population have had different experiences, but it's been difficult for everybody. I'm no different, and I've had to make changes in my own professional life to accommodate for the impacts of the past two years," he revealed.

While half of those who took part in the study reported an increased level of stress since the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Nathanson said what's really concerning is the number of doctors considering reducing their clinical activities over the coming year.

"Who is going to provide the service at a time when demands are very high, not only because of the ongoing demands of the pandemic but also because of the surgical and procedural backlogs?" he asked.

According to the World Health Organization definition, burnout is a "syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

It is characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job.

"I think lots of people can relate to that description, not only physicians and health-care providers, but because of the reasons I just pointed out, it's a concern," said Nathanson.

"Burnout affects not only access to care as I described, but it has the potential to affect the quality and the safety of care that's provided," Dr. Nathanson concluded.