High burnout rates risk patient safety, doc workforce

Nearly one in two American doctors has experienced symptoms of professional burnout--a serious problem with implications on both the physician shortage and patient safety. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, whose findings appeared online Aug. 20 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, an 'alarming' 46 percent of nearly 7,300 doctors surveyed said they'd experienced at least one symptom of burnout, such as emotional exhaustion, low enthusiasm, cynicism, depression, suicidal tendencies, negative views on work-life balance and low professional esteem.

In particular, almost 38 percent of doctors reported 'high emotional exhaustion,' 30 percent suffered from feelings of cynicism and 12 percent claimed to have a low sense of personal accomplishment, HealthDay News reported. In addition, 29 percent of physicians reported 'high depersonalization,' while 37 percent said their careers did not allow enough time for personal or family life, MedPage Today reported.

Physician stress and burnout also were found to affect some specialties more than others. At highest risk, according to Tait Shanafelt, MD, and colleagues, were 'front-line' providers such as those in emergency medicine, general internal medicine, family medicine, neurology and radiology. By comparison, dermatologists, pediatricians and preventive medicine doctors were found to be among the least likely physicians to experience such difficulties.

According to physician wellness experts interviewed by FiercePracticeManagement, both organizational leadership and individual physicians need to do more to proactively alleviate some pressures on physicians--before stress grows into burnout or dangerous or disruptive behavior.

To learn more:
- read the abstract from the Archives of Internal Medicine
- see the story from HealthDay News
- check out the article from MedPage Today