Why burnout hits emergency docs, hospitalists so hard

Burnout among healthcare workers is on the rise, and research suggests it hits emergency physicians and hospitalists the hardest, according to MedPageToday.

The publication cited a 2012 study that found that across specialties, 45.8 percent of healthcare workers reported burnout, but emergency physicians experience burnout at a rate of more than 60 percent.

The reason for the higher rate is because emergency medicine represents the intersection of numerous factors that contribute to burnout, Shay Bintliff, M.D., a retired emergency room doctor, told the publication: not only do they work in high-demand, low-control environments, they lack the autonomy of doctors who run their own practice. Emergency nurses also suffer high rates of burnout, with "moral distress" a major contributing factor.

For hospitalists, the risk is especially pronounced, because "the work of hospital medicine is really intense," said Vineet Arora, M.D., a hospitalist on the faculty of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, told MedPageToday. "You're always on. It's like working ER shifts for 7 days in a row."

In some ways Arora added, the hospitalist field can carry a higher chance of burnout, as emergency physicians have the flexibility to establish certain norms based on shifts and working conditions, whereas for hospital medicine, the work is still in an experimental stage and there is far less time or room to determine what works best.

Complicating efforts to reduce burnout, numerous myths about the phenomenon persist, according to a second MedPageToday article. For example, the popular perception holds that burnout primarily affects doctors in the late stages of their careers, but scientific analysis found it is most likely to occur among mid-career physicians, with younger and older doctors suffering lower rates.

Rates also vary by specialty, with neurology, general internal medicine and family medicine at particular risk along with emergency physicians and dermatology, preventive medicine, pathology and dermatology experiencing far lower rates.

To learn more:
- read the first and second MedPageToday articles