Physician burnout

Burnout toolkit Image

Burnout toolkit

The OMA Burnout Task Force has created individual supports for physicians like the burnout toolkit and burnout podcasts to help members identify, prevent and manage burnout.

Access the toolkit

Burnout is a system-level issue that impacts many physicians in Ontario and was exacerbated by the pandemic. System-level solutions are needed to address it. And if doctors, nurses and others providing care burn out, this impedes access to care for patients. The OMA’s top policy recommendations, identified in Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care, will help to address burnout and support the well-being of physicians.

As a group, physicians have higher than average rates of burnout than the general population. Almost three-quarters (72.9 per cent) of physicians surveyed by the OMA said they experienced some level of burnout in 2021, up from 66 per cent the previous year. Just over one-third (34.6 per cent) reported either persistent symptoms of burnout or feeling completely burned out in 2021, up from 29 per cent in 2020. 

This percentage was likely higher with the COVID-19 pandemic increasing demands on physicians. Stress, burnout and post-traumatic stress among health-care workers rise significantly during disease outbreaks, and for two years afterwards. 

Despite being burned out, Ontario’s doctors have provided the best possible care to their patients throughout the pandemic and beyond. 

72.9 per cent of physicians experienced some level of burnout in 2021, up from 66 per cent the previous year


The OMA advocates to the Ontario government to address burnout as a system-wide issue through the OMA Burnout Task Force and the Bilateral Burnout Task Force with the Ministry of Health.

We’ve sent a letter to the federal government to share our concerns about added administrative burden related to new funding in the federal budget to help Canadians with disabilities. For a patient to qualify for the subsidy in the Canada Disability Benefit program, a physician has to fill out a lengthy and time-consuming form, which adds more paperwork and unnecessary administrative burden. The federal government did not consult with us or our Forms Committee to understand the impact this change will have on your workload. We’ve sent a letter to Kamal Khera, minister of diversity, inclusion, and persons with disabilities, about this issue. Read the full letter to Kamal Khera.

OMA Burnout Task Force initiatives

The OMA’s Burnout Task Force was struck in 2019 to identify the contributors to burnout, advocate to the Ontario government, co-ordinate with stakeholders to address and inform issues related to burnout and develop system-level recommendations on burnout prevention.

To support this work, the task force surveyed physicians in 2020 and 2021. Both surveys have allowed the task force to hear directly from members on potential solutions and what you believe are the factors contributing to burnout. The survey results culminated in the task force’s white paper that provides system-level solutions to address this critical issue for the profession and recommendations to achieve them, and a peer-reviewed publication in BMJ Open.

The OMA Burnout Task Force has also developed individual-level supports for physicians like the burnout toolkit and the series of burnout podcasts, recognizing that short-term support is important while we work toward long-term system-level changes.

Bilateral Burnout Task Force

One of the OMA Burnout Task Force’s recommendations in its 2021 white paper was the creation of a bilateral table with the Ministry of Health as a mechanism to drive system-level change. This Bilateral Burnout Task Force is now up and running, and has been meeting regularly since June 2022, with its top priority to address administrative burden and establish a standard measure of burnout for the system.

The task force is also engaging system stakeholders to work together on these issues, and working with the Forms Committee to learn from its longstanding work to reduce administrative burden from Ministry of Health forms.

Ministry of Red Tape Reduction

Through the work of the OMA Forms Committee and its consultations with members, several problematic government forms contributing to increased administrative burden for physicians have been identified. The Bilateral Burnout Task Force has obtained the support of the Ministry of Red Tape Reduction to scope out a project to address burden from forms such as these. In addition, the OMA submitted recommendations to reduce red tape to the Ministry of Red Tape Reduction. Topics in this submission include forms, centralized referral, regional credentialling, integration of electronic medical records and care co-ordinators.

According to the 2022 Member Value and Trust Benchmark Survey, 93 per cent of members agreed doctors feel burned out, with women, mid-career physicians and GPs most strongly impacted.

OMA papers on burnout

The OMA Task Force, based on consultations with members and key system stakeholders, has developed a series of white papers outlining recommendations to address burnout in the medical profession.

Access all of the OMA’s position papers.

Submission on red tape reduction
March, 2023
Submission on red tape reduction
March, 2023

Through the Ministry of Health-OMA bilateral Burnout Task Force, the OMA has had the valuable opportunity to reinforce the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Ontario’s health-care system through reduction of administrative burden for physicians.

Ontario physicians identify administrative burden as one of the leading causes of burnout, which affects the vast majority of doctors. The Canadian Medical Association’s 2021 National Physician Health Survey found that physicians spend more than one extra working day – 10 hours a week – on administrative tasks. Further, burned out doctors are decreasing their workloads and retiring earlier, leaving the sustainability of the health-care system at risk.

Read the OMA’s submission on red tape reduction.

Impact of COVID on physician burnout
September, 2022
Impact of COVID on physician burnout
September, 2022

The OMA’s results from the 2020 and 2021 member burnout surveys were published in the prestigious journal BMJ Open. Findings show that following one year of the pandemic, high levels of burnout among Ontario physicians had increased from 28 per cent in March 2020 to 34.7 per cent in March 2021, with female physicians and physicians under 35 more likely to experience burnout in 2021. This publication supports the findings of the OMA Burnout Task Force’s 2021 white paper. 

Read the BMJ Open publication.

Healing the Healers
August, 2021
Healing the Healers
August, 2021

The OMA’s Burnout Task Force was struck in 2019 to identify the contributors to burnout, advocate to the Ontario government, co-ordinate with stakeholders to address and inform issues related to burnout and develop system-level recommendations on burnout prevention.

To support this work, the task force surveyed physicians in 2020 and 2021. According to the surveys, just prior to the pandemic, 29 per cent of Ontario physicians had high levels of burnout with two-thirds experiencing some level of burnout. By March 2021, these rates had increased, with 34.6 per cent of Ontario physicians reporting high levels of burnout and almost three-quarters reporting some level of burnout.

The OMA released a white paper calling on the Ontario government to address burnout, recommending the top five solutions:

  • Reducing and streamlining documentation
  • More work-life balance through flexible work arrangements
  • Making digital health tools a seamless part of physicians’ workflow, including by ensuring different systems can speak to each other
  • Support for physician wellness at their workplaces
  • Fair and equitable compensation for all work, including administrative work that cannot be reduced

Read the full white paper and the executive summary.

Access the infographic outlining the top five system-level solutions to burnout.

Practical OMD resources

  • OMD Advisory Service: Members are assigned an OMD Advisor who provides support to maximize the value from their EMRs and other practice technologies
  • OMD Peer Leaders: A network of physicians, nurses and clinic managers who are expert users of EMRs and other digital health and virtual care tools who can share advice and answer questions
  • A website dedicated to providing practical advice, time-saving tips, education, events and training on EMRs, digital health tools and privacy and security

The Ontario Medical Foundation awarded $42,500 to each of three doctors to study solutions to the growing issue of physician burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a work-related syndrome characterized as a state of mental exhaustion caused by one’s professional life. While individual factors can influence burnout (for example, high stress combined with high ideals, perfectionism and a sense of responsibility), burnout in physicians is driven primarily by system-level factors, such as:

  • Long work hours (especially more than 80 hours per week)
  • Caring for sicker patients with more complex needs
  • Pressure to learn new technology
  • Greater expectations from patients
  • Increased pressure to produce
  • More time spent on administrative tasks rather than patient care
  • Constantly changing rules and roles (office-based health care transitioning to population-based care)
  • Micromanagement of medical practice by administration and government agencies

This can leave physicians feeling a lack of:

  • Control (personal and professional)
  • Connection (toward work and others)
  • Competence (decreased confidence)

Get support

Contact the Physician Health Program. Please call our confidential line at 1-800-851-6606 or email

Pre-budget submissions

In its current and past pre-budget submissions to the Ontario government, the OMA has proposed the following recommendations to help bring the issue of physician burnout to the forefront and address key challenges in administrative burden:

  1. Stronger research, specifically Ontario-specific data to better understand the system-level causes and effects of physician burnout to guide system improvements that support physicians
  2. System-level solutions to enable a supportive system that promotes physician wellness and prevents physician burnout
  3. Partnership with the OMA on implementing recommendations and solutions developed by the OMA Burnout Task Force
  4. We need dedicated investment to prioritize the review and streamlining of government forms to reduce administrative burden. Given the urgency, the government should follow the lead of Nova Scotia and set a target for how many government forms can be reduced and complete this work within the next year
  5. Stop building portals. Doctors have long called for the integration of digital health tools that can be seamlessly accessed from their electronic medical records. More focus needs to be put on integration

OMA in the news

Read the latest articles on how the OMA is bringing awareness and offering solutions to address burnout.

In this opinion editorial, OMA President Dr. Rose Zacharias discusses the daily struggles doctors face and lists steps that will immediately address burnout.

A CBC article resports that a survey found that nearly 20 per cent of Toronto family doctors are planning to close their practices in next five years.

Freeing up physicians’ hours to spend time on patient care could also address burnout issues.

OMA videos

Physicians are reporting higher levels of burnout. Watch as four physicians describe the causes of burnout, the effect it is having and how they are coping.

Dr. Mamta Gautam
OMA Burnout Task Force chair and psychiatrist

Many factors contribute to physician burnout. Dr. Gautam says the risk of burnout is directly related to the amount of work physicians do.

Watch the videos

Dr. Mamta Gautam

OMA Burnout Task Force chair and psychiatrist

Dr. Chandi Chandrasena

Chief medical officer, OntarioMD

Dr. Adam Kassam

OMA president and physiatrist

Dr. Carolyn Snider

Chief of emergency medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital

Related articles from the Ontario Medical Review

OMR has featured stories on physician mental health, administrative burden and the use of digital tools to highlight the issue of burnout in the medical profession.

Related episodes from the Spotlight on Health podcast

The OMA Spotlight on Health podcast features doctors from across the province. Listen as they discuss how burnout affects them and possible solutions. 

Dr. Jon Novick and Dr. Judy Suke discuss the impact of physician burnout and the role the health-care system plays in ensuring our medical community remains in good mental health.

Physician discuss the use of medical scribes to document details of patient visits and take on onerous paperwork has relieved physicians, freeing them up to focus on patient care.

OMA data shows physician burnout is on the rise. Dr. Carolyn Snider, chief of emergency medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, describes what it’s been like to be on the front lines of the pandemic and what health-care workers are doing to cope.