Is it Risky to Disclose Depression
on a Licensure Application?
by Robert Bondurant, RN, LCSW
Executive Director, MPHP
There appears to be uncertainty among some physicians as to whether or not to disclose a history of depression when applying for licensure. It is an important concern as it may also affect one’s decision about seeking professional help for an illness.
Recently a physician administrator expressed his doubts about disclosing depression based on a colleague’s experience in the early 1980’s. He related that his colleague had undergone treatment for depression and felt a responsibility to report his diagnosis and treatment plan to the Missouri Board of Healing Arts. The colleague thought the Board’s response had been harsh and he felt shame and anger as a result. He did not believe that the Board impartially heard his admission and further was distrustful of his ability to practice medicine. The colleague expressed regret that he had voluntarily disclosed his medical condition.
The administrator was profoundly affected by his friend’s experience with the Board. This memory shaped his perspectives of the Board’s perceived lack of compassion and respect for physicians with impairment issues related to mental health.
I explained to him that I have worked with the Board since 1994 and have never encountered that type of response to mental health issues. The MPHP has assisted many such physicians successfully. It has been our experience that once the Board is aware of the diagnosis, the involvement of a treating physician, and that the physician is in compliance with the treatment plan, the Board is very supportive of the physician’s disclosure and efforts at managing their illness.
This physician administrator was pleasantly surprised to hear what I said. I suggested that he refer any physician to us who desires to make a disclosure about any medical problem to the Board for guidance. The Board desires full disclosure which assures them that the physician is having his medical issues managed properly and therefore able to be fit for duty.
The MPHP has gained a vast amount of experience through its interaction with regulatory agencies and troubled physicians. This experience and wisdom is available to any Missouri physician or physician in training.
Conversations like this with physician leaders and administrators is extremely valuable. It is important to provide them with correct and current information as they are in a position to provide timely guidance to their colleagues and utilize appropriate resources.
One advantage that MPHP brings to the table is our independence from the Missouri board. Because we are not beholden to them due to financial considerations, we are freer to advocate for physicians. Other state physician health programs have accepted funding from their state board’s licensure fees which limits their ability to fully advocate for physicians. The MPHP has a history of mutual respect with the regulatory agencies. We are able to stand with the physician and focus on his or her needs without any concern for funding issues. This is one reason we rely so heavily on contributions.
I welcome phone calls from any physician, colleague or concerned individual who wants to provide good guidance and help to a physician who could be in need of help. Please reach out to the MPHP--that is the right call to make!