Duties: To Themselves and Colleagues


Physician wellness is a critical component of the professional practice of medicine. Wellness is defined as the condition of good physical and mental health necessary to provide high quality care to patients and to fulfill the duties noted above.

Because physicians cannot serve their own patients if they are not well, physicians may have to put their own needs for wellness ahead of the needs of individual patients or the public as a whole in some circumstances.

Physician wellness is also important for its own sake, independent of any responsibility to others.

Physicians should only care for patients when they are well enough to do so. In order to ensure that patients receive high quality care, physicians have a responsibility to:

  • be aware of their own health, which includes being able to recognize when they are not well enough to provide competent care;
  • obtain help, if necessary, from colleagues, their own physician, or other supports, in order to ensure their own wellness;
  • adjust their practice, as necessary, to ensure that patients can and do receive appropriate care.

The best interests of patients are served when physicians take time to meet their own needs and are continually aware of their own wellness. This means recognizing limits imposed by fatigue, stress or illness and taking care to ensure a healthy work-life balance. This is not always easy. Physicians set high expectations for themselves and may not immediately recognize either transient or longer term periods of incapacity. Recognition of transient incapacity is particularly difficult.

In leading by example for patients and colleagues, physicians should avoid self-treatment. Instead, physicians should try to establish a relationship as a patient with another physician they trust for care and should seek advice about their own care from that physician.

If a physician knows that he or she has a serious condition that could be passed on to patients, or that his or her judgment or performance could be significantly affected by a condition or illness, or its treatment, that physician should seek professional advice about ongoing clinical practice.

Relevant Policies, Publications and Resources

Physicians with Blood Borne Pathogens

Ending the Physician–Patient Relationship

Treating Self and Family Members

Physician Health Program – OMA

Infection Control in the Physician’s Office

The Practice Guide

Duties of Physicians to Themselves and Others


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