Physician burnout grows to more than half the workforce

Physician burnout, already a major problem within the healthcare industry, has worsened in the past three years, according to new research published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Researchers compared 2014 and 2011 data and found increases in several major symptoms of professional burnout. Based on a poll of nearly 7,000 physicians, researchers found:

  • Fifty-four percent reported at least one symptom, compared to 45.5 percent in 2011
  • Happiness with work-life balance also fell, declining from 48.5 percent in 2011 to just under 41 percent in 2014

Yet these trends ran in the opposite direction for the working population as a whole, according to the study. In addition, researchers found more than half of respondents both feel emotionally exhausted and feel the work they do is less meaningful.

"What we found is that more physicians in almost every specialty are feeling this way and that's not good for them, their families, the medical profession or patients," co-author Tait Shanafelt, M.D., director of Mayo's Department of Medicine Program on Physician Well-Being, told the Washington Post. Going forward, the study states, anti-burnout interventions must go beyond simply training physicians to be more resilient and instead target factors within the practice that contribute to burnout rates.

The research comes in the wake of another recently published study from Mayo that speculates burnout among physicians is largely due to a perception of being part of a "fixing-people production line," and that a shortage of time away from a practice environment contributes to burnout rates.

Researchers at the Center for Excellence in Primary Care at the University of California San Francisco found that practices with high-quality performance typically address these issues, finding ways to lighten physician workloads by assigning tasks that do not require a physician elsewhere within the practice staff, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. Experts also suggest practices and hospitals build time to recuperate into physicians' routines.

To learn more:
- read the study (.pdf)
- here's the Washington Post article