pediatric mental health

What’s Stressing Pediatricians? Stress.

What’s stressing out pediatricians? As it turns out, it’s stress, and its related diagnoses: anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that post-COVID are appearing more frequently in children, adolescents, and their parents. In this post, we explore the results of a 2023 study by the Omansky Group which gave clear insights into the stressors pediatricians face, and how some practices are shaping up to face mental health in the best ways they can.

During PCC’s 2023 Users’ Conference, market researchers The Omansky Group invited attendees to anonymously discuss top stressors in pediatric practice. According to the Omansky Group, these “annual studies offer unique opportunities for 3rd party, independent resource conversations on an in-person, direct one-on-one basis with key PCC clients.” During the conference, ten attendees participated in the qualitative study in 45-minute sessions over three days in Burlington, VT.


“A Rare Confluence”: Pediatricians Unanimous on Stressors

Poignantly, all ten respondents to the study said that mental health concerns were the top stressor for pediatric practices, with the average reported stress scale for the participants a staggering 8 out of 10. They reported that since the COVID-19 pandemic and children’s return to school, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns have increased dramatically, further fracturing a less-than-accessible system for pediatric mental health that existed before the pandemic.

Pediatricians stated that a confluence of factors has led to their current position of high stress: lack of mental healthcare training for pediatricians; lack of accessible care from specialists; high time demands from mental health visits taking time away from other visit types; an increase in mental health needs since the pandemic; increased parental demands that stem from internet sources of various quality.

“Mental health is just off the charts! These are extremely time-draining problems that I wasn’t trained to solve. And problems I can’t solve go against my grain as a pediatrician - pediatricians become pediatricians to solve problems instantly for instant gratification and I can’t do that with these kinds of cases.”

In addition to the increase in mental health demands, staffing concerns significantly exacerbate pediatricians’ stress, with many reporting that it has been challenging to staff offices appropriately and with top-quality candidates, leading to a dip in team cultures and morale. We’ve written previously about staffing a pediatric office and interviewed Dr. Hiral Lavania about staffing concerns in May 2022 for PCC’s The Independent Pediatrician.


“There’s always too much to do, and all at the same time, and never having enough people.”


How Pediatricians are Weathering the Stress Storm

Despite a clear need for societal support, state and federal healthcare policy, and critical healthcare infrastructure to care for children with mental healthcare needs, pediatricians are doing everything they can to support kids. Here are some ways respondents reported supporting mental healthcare in their practices, from incorporating PCMH principles to hiring mental healthcare in-house.

Respondents mentioned their practices’ Mental Health Center of Excellence designation by CMS due to PCMH incorporation. The Primary Care Medical Home is key to pediatricians’ serving communities in a patient-centered, safe, and trusting environment.

Some practices reported they use screenings to discover potential mental health problems early, such as PEARLS (Pediatric ACEs and Related Life-events Screener). Other screens include the ACE-Q for children and teens. Both screenings are available from CHADIS, which can be incorporated into PCC EHR. ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) are a key indicator of toxic stress, contributing to key healthcare concerns in adults and children.

The study also found that “because of the specialist resource access challenges encountered, some respondents disclosed making mental health a part of the Medical Home. Their fully integrated mental health capabilities in their practices included licensed therapists (LMFTs), associate therapists, and child psychiatrists.”


You’re Not Alone: PCC Is Here to Help

PCC is a Vermont-based healthcare IT and services company that serves independent pediatricians nationwide. With an emphasis on a high quality EHR and world-class support, PCC wants to do everything possible to support pediatricians and their communities. We are proud to provide the support that prompted The Omansky Group’s respondents to say the following in regards to PCC’s services:


“It’s not just tech support where PCC knows us by name and they’re accessible all the time, it’s making us all feel that what we all do in pediatrics is all worthwhile. PCC is validating for us.” 

“When you have that instant support response from PCC, and you know they can immediately fix any problem, that lowers my stress a lot.” 


Here are some further resources that will be useful if your practice faces similar challenges.

“I’m responsible to meet kids’ needs and to give them what they deserve. The world is raining social and administrative barriers down on me. It’s impeding me from delivering what kids need. Those kids need me to help them, it’s raining so many barriers, I don’t feel I can give them what they deserve.”

Quotes like the above are hard to read because the people often the hardest on pediatricians are the pediatricians themselves. At PCC, we know pediatricians tirelessly care for children and communities and that every practice is doing its best. Pediatricians aren’t alone in their stress and concerns for their practices and patients. In the pediatric community, physicians can validate and support each other. And PCC is ready to help.

Want more on pediatric mental health post-pandemic? Stay tuned to hear from pediatricians fighting the good fight for mental health in an upcoming edition of The Independent Pediatrician. Pediatricians aren’t exempt from needing care, either. Check out Dr. Kaplan’s story to see why.

Allie Squires

Allie Squires is PCC's Marketing Content Writer and editor of The Independent Pediatrician. She holds a master's in Professional Writing from NYU.