Burnout rates, severity at unprecedented highs

Physician burnout isn't just getting more widespread; it's also getting more severe, according to a new report from Medscape.

Burnout rates are indeed higher for all specialties included in the Medscape Lifestyle Report 2016, which is based on survey responses from more than 15,800 physicians from across 25 specialties. The specialties that are hardest-hit, according to the survey, included critical care, urology and emergency medicine, all at 55 percent. Burnout also afflicts more than half of doctors in family medicine, internal medicine, critical care and emergency medicine.

Physicians' self-reported severity of burnout, rated on a scale of one to seven, has also risen across the board in the past year. Critical care physicians report the most life disruption from burnout, however, with an average severity rating of 4.7.

The top three causes of burnout remained consistent over the past year: having too many bureaucratic tasks, too many work hours and increasing computerization.

"Unfortunately, nobody has found that magic solution or particular programs that have been successful," Michael Smith, M.D., chief medical editor of WebMD, told H&HN Magazine. "If we don't see significant changes in what is causing burnouts, then we're unlikely to see a change in rates and change in medical care."

Also fanning the flames of burnout may be a culture in which physicians are reluctant to let others know they are struggling and seek help, argued Aaron E. Carroll, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, in a recent commentary for the New York Times.

Today's physicians are on the front lines of reducing the stigma around mental health issues for patients and themselves, FiercePracticeManagement reported previously. The American Medical Association (AMA), for example, has made physicians' wellness and ability to thrive a top priority, noted a recent post from the organization. AMA measures to help address the epidemic include its STEPS Forward program, hosting the upcoming International Conference on Physician Health and sharing wellness resources publicly.

To learn more:
- see the survey
- read the article