Physician burnout is a big deal

I’ve written extensively about physician job satisfaction. There’s a new study out in JAMArchives of Internal Medicine that adds to the discussion:

Background  Despite extensive data about physician burnout, to our knowledge, no national study has evaluated rates of burnout among US physicians, explored differences by specialty, or compared physicians with US workers in other fields.

Methods  We conducted a national study of burnout in a large sample of US physicians from all specialty disciplines using the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and surveyed a probability-based sample of the general US population for comparison. Burnout was measured using validated instruments. Satisfaction with work-life balance was explored.

Researchers sent out surveys to over 27,000 physicians, and about 27% of them answered them. The news isn’t good.

They used the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which is a validated measure  of burnout. More than 45% of of doctors had at least one symptom of burnout. The highest rates of burnout were seen in physicians considered to be at “the front line” of access, including emergency medicine (about two-thirds of them!), general internal medicine, and family medicine.

When assessed against a probability based sample of US workers in other professions, physicians fare significantly worse. About 38% of physicians have burnout compared to 28% of all other workers. About 40% of physicians are unhappy about their work-life balance compared to 23% of all other workers.

We need to take this seriously. Unhappy doctors don’t make for good doctors. I wish we could spend a little more time talking about this in the public sphere instead of how doctors might only make decisions because of money.


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