Physician burnout, a work-related syndrome, is something that physicians can experience at any stage in their careers, from medical school through the years leading up to retirement.
Among the most common symptoms of burnout are:
A survey of physicians found that 42% experienced symptoms of burnout. That’s the same percentage who reported feeling burned out in 2019. When broken down, the burnout gender gap was greater than usual. The results showed that 51% of female respondents and 36% of male respondents said they were burned out.
Half of all doctors report troubling symptoms: depression, exhaustion, dissatisfaction and a sense of failure. These physicians are twice as likely to commit a serious medical error. Not only does this jeopardize patient wellbeing, it also substantially elevates the risk of malpractice lawsuits.
Burnout is also associated with decreased productivity, which can be measured in terms of work ability, sick days taken, and physicians’ intent to either continue practicing or change jobs.
Sources: (Canadian Medical Journal
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|Rank||Specialty||% of Burnout|
|3||Obstetrics and gynecology||53%|
|4||Infectious diseases; Family medicine||51%|
|5||Physical medicine and rehabilitation; Diabetes and endocrinology||50%|
Burnout is causing physicians to consider leaving their practices. Younger doctors in particular think it’s unlikely they’ll be with the same organization in three years.
Among physicians under the age of 45, 23% of those with significant signs of burnout said they would probably leave their practice. That figure drops to 9% among similarly burned-out physicians ages 45 to 49.
The clerical burden introduced by EHRs has become a leading cause of physician burnout. EHRs contribute to burnout by turning physicians into unhappy data-entry clerks, and also by enabling 24-hour patient access without any system to provide compensation or coverage. The stats are telling:
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Almost half of all physicians think they can handle their struggles without professional help. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, physicians have experienced busier schedules, higher productivity expectations and more time spent documenting, which means less time to interact with other physicians.
As a result, physicians tend to handle stress alone and don’t reach out because they fear looking like a weak or subpar doctor.
Loneliness turned out to be related to organizational and team variables. High loneliness correlates in a statistically significant way with worse organization of work, also less support from administration management, management, and a worse working atmosphere.
Source: ( Health Affairs)
Source: (Physicians Foundation)
Healthcare professionals who need to take care of children on top of their work responsibilities will experience 54% more burnout. Work is already mentally and physically taxing, but when they return home, they have even more duties with their children.
The spouses of physicians experiencing burnout symptoms may notice:
Burnout levels peak after the first year of residency and remain high throughout residency until graduation.
One survey found that on average, 45% of resident physicians experience burnout. This ranged from 29.2%-63.8%. The prevalence of career choice regret was between 7.4%-32.7%.
Source: (JAMA Network)
Most physicians work 51-60 hours per week, but this only accounts for 26% of physicians. Another quarter work 60-80 hours, so a majority work between 50-80 hours. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most Americans work an average of 34.4 hours per week.
46% of respondents to a survey are considering reducing their clinical work in the coming months and years, as a direct result of burnout.
Communities rely on physicians of all specialties for their well-being. The continuing shortage of physicians means that women and men in the profession may need to work more efficiently and effectively to meet the growing demand for their valuable services.
Recognizing and treating the signs of physician burnout is healthy for physicians, their patients, and their communities.