Burnout grows among physicians

The number of burned-out physicians is on the rise, with nearly half of American doctors reporting a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism and a low sense of personal accomplishment, according to a new survey from Medscape.

The burnout rates are highest among critical care and emergency department physicians, 53 and 52 percent of whom, respectively, report being burned out, the 2015 Physician Lifestyle Report found. Across all types of physicians surveyed, 46 percent described themselves as burned out, compared to 39.8 percent of doctors surveyed in 2013 for the 2014 report.

Burnout has long been a salient issue in healthcare, with various studies chronicling its negative impact on patient care and the number of physicians in the workforce, and one report indicating that the industry cannot achieve its Triple Aim of providing better care, improving population health and lowering costs without first improving the work life of clinicians, FierceHealthcare and FiercePracticeManagement have reported. And it doesn't just affect doctors--nurses frequently report being worn down by long hours, lack of respect from management and even workplace violence, factors they say put them and their patients in danger.

Areas of practice with the lowest rates of burnout include dermatology, at 37 percent, and psychiatry at 38 percent. Physicians in specialties such as cardiology and plastic surgery reported the most severe cases of burnout, defined as likely to make them leave medicine.

Physician burnout also varies by age and gender, as the survey found burnout peaks in mid-life for doctors, and that 51 percent of women compared to 43 percent of men were affected. 

The causes of burnout were diverse, and included complaints about income, the impact of the Affordable Care Act and too many difficult patients. The most-cited reason was having to complete too many bureaucratic tasks, and the least-cited was having a difficult employer.

The survey did indicate some solutions, however, as those physicians who said they volunteer, take more than two weeks of vacation time and exercise more than twice a week were less likely to report burnout. Those physicians living with partners were also less likely than their single counterparts to experience burnout, and burnout was also slightly higher among physicians who were not religious compared to those who are spiritual.

These findings echo previous experts' advice that urges doctors to pay more attention to their physical and emotional wellbeing, according to FiercePracticeManagement.

To learn more:
- check out the report