Long School of Medicine

Resident Impairment

Office for Graduate Medical Education

What is a Physician Impairment?

The American Medical Association defines an “impaired physician” as one who is unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety because of mental illness or excessive use or abuse of drugs, including alcohol.  In general, physicians become impaired because of three major problems:

  • Substance abuse – Alcohol abuse is the most common problem.  Abuse of narcotics, sedatives and other depressants as well as stimulants, including cocaine, may also occur.  According to current estimates, 8 to 10 percent of physicians abuse alcohol and 2 percent abuse narcotics.
  • Psychological problems – Excessive stress, depression, anxiety and divorce are the most common issues.
  • Physical illness – Physical ailments, either temporary or long-term, can lead to incapacity.

In addition, fatigue can contribute to impaired judgment, attentiveness, and performance.

Below are several links to useful sites. In addition, an individual who is concerned about impairment in self or colleague may report these concerns, anonymously, to the GME Hotline at 1-800-500-0333 - this line is available every day, 24 hours/day.


Do You Know a Resident Who Needs Our Help?

Substance Abuse Among Physicians

A Guide for Medical Students, Residents, & Practicing Physicians