Physician burnout worsening


Burnout among US physicians is getting worse, according to an update from a three-year study evaluating burnout and work-life balance.

The update shows that American physicians are worse off today than they were three years earlier.

These dimensions remained largely unchanged among US workers in general, resulting in a widening gap between physicians and workers in other fields.

The study, conducted by Mayo Clinic researchers in partnership with the American Medical Association, compared data from 2014 to metrics they collected in 2011 and found that now more than half of US physicians are experiencing professional burnout. The findings appear in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“Burnout manifests as emotional exhaustion, loss of meaning in work, and feelings of ineffectiveness,” said Dr Tait Shanafelt. “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.”

The researchers said that evidence indicates that burnout leads to poor care, physician turnover and a decline in the overall quality of the health care system.

In the 2011 survey 45 percent of physicians met the burnout criteria, with highest rates occurring in the ‘front lines’ — general internal medicine, family medicine and emergency medicine.

In 2014, 54 percent of responding physicians had at least one symptom of burnout. Satisfaction with work-life balance also declined. The survey results were based on 6,880 physicians across the US, a 19 percent response rate, as well as a population based sample of 5313 working US adults in other fields.

The study found that physician burnout is up 10 percent over the last three years. Burnout rates are up across almost all specialties. No overall increase in physician work hours was reported, and no increase in rates of depression was observed among physicians.

Researchers said the problem of physician burnout is largely a system issue and that healthcare organizations have a shared responsibility in addressing the problem.

They added that more needs to be done by healthcare organizations to help physicians by improving the efficiency of the practice environment, reducing clerical burden, and providing physicians greater flexibility and control over work.

They highlight the urgent need for research to provide “evidence-based interventions” addressing burnout, including improving efficiency. Factors in the practice or work environment have to change, they add, and offering self-help solutions is no longer enough.

Mayo Clinic, AMA, American Medical Association, Physician Burnout, US, Risk Management, Dr Tait Shanafelt