Physician Burnout Pervasive: 1 in 2 Internists Affected

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , August 21, 2012

Of 7,288 physicians who responded to the survey, 37.9% had symptoms of burnout and 40.2% were dissatisfied with their work-life balance. Among 3,442 working U.S. adults, 27.8% responded they were burned out and 23.2% dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

Physician Burnout By Specialty

The doctors and other U.S. workers were asked in June, 2011 to respond to these two questions on a frequency scale from "never" to "every day": 

  • How often do you feel burned out from your work?
  • How often do you feel you have become more callous toward people?

Colin West, MD, an internist at the of the Mayo Clinic Division of Health Sciences Research and an author of the report, said that his fellow researchers don't know why emergency doctors, primary care physicians, and neurologists seem to be faring worse, or why doctors seem more stressed out than the general population.

But they have some theories.

"These are the specialists that are on the front lines of care, the first contact for all comers," West says. "They're not able to focus or define their medical practice specifically or narrowly...It's difficult for them to be prepared for what comes next."

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5 comments on "Physician Burnout Pervasive"

Jim E (7/4/2013 at 11:04 PM)
Our group has concerns that given the changes and requirements of EHR coupled with never-ending demands of seeing even more patients daily by our "overseers", then when will our first malpractice claim be served as a result of our evolving "operator fatigue"?

Dike Drummond MD (8/29/2012 at 12:15 PM)
The literature on burnout over the last 20 years is completely consistent with this study. 1 in 3 doctors on average are suffering from symptomatic burnout on any given office day. These statistics are worldwide, regardless of the docotor's specialty OR the type of healthcare delivery system. The biggest cause is the conditioning of our healthcare educational system which effectively installs a survival mechanism in all doctors that has four key components. Workaholic Superhero Emotion Free Lone Ranger This is a key set of skills we all must use to survive training and NOT a great way to live a life. It is this programming that is primarily responsible for the epidemic of burnout we see in medicine. The additional post-graduation stresses of "the business of medicine", our complete lack of functional leadership skills and the uncertainties of political "reform" and the changing practice landscape - 75% of doctors are projected to be employees by 2013 - not to mention raising a family with this #800 gorilla of a career. It is a recipe for this dysfunction. Where do we go from here? It is a multifactorial answer. The doctors need the skills to lower stress and prevent burnout as individuals. That is why I created my website. We know what works to create a more resilient doctor and prevent burnout and it is rarely taught in the standard medical school and residency curriculum. And organizations bear a large responsibility because it is so darn easy to focus on the patient .... and not see that - in healthcare especially - the health and wellbeing of the provider has a direct impact on the quality and healing at the level of the patient. We have a moral, ethical and business imperative to support the wellness of the providers and not treat doctors like piece workers on a production line. These are immensely important topics that deserve more than a blog comment to do them justice. If you REALLY want to explore this issue in a way that has a chance to create meaningful change. Please contact me through my website. The doctors are the canary in the coal mine of modern healthcare ... unfortunately that same canary is the one coordinating the care of everyone in your system... and we cannot afford to let them drop. My two cents, Dike Dike Drummond MD TheHappyMD (dot) com

Marc Boisvert (8/24/2012 at 9:50 AM)
This study brings to light in a formal way and validates what many of us have been feeling for a long time. Our professional representative organizations should be tasked to keep this information in the public eye and hammer it home in every discussion of health care reform.




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