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Physician Burnout

By February 5, 2015Commentary

Everyone knows doctors feel overwhelmed with payer and regulatory demands, not to mention trying to keep up with the exponential growth in clinical medicine developments.  So it is not surprising that a new survey from Medscape shows very high rates of burnout.   (Medscape Survey)  In 2013, overall 40% of doctors said they were burned out, in 2015, the number is 46%.  It varies by specialty, but none have what would be considered a low rate–critical care and ER lead the way at 53% and 52%, but surprisingly family medicine and internists are not far behind at 50%.  At the other end are dermatologists, 37%, mental health, 38% and pathologists at 39%.   Causes of feeling like they’ve had enough?  On 1 to 7 scale of increasing importance as a factor, too many bureaucratic tasks is 4.7; too many hours is 4; not enough income, increasing computerization of medicine (note carefully all you HIT ideologues), and the reform law are each 3.7.

Other interesting nuggets from the survey:  women report a burnout rate of 51%, while men are 43% done for.  Middle-aged doctors report slightly higher burnout percents.  What do doctors like to do when and if they have spare time–be with their families, travel, exercise and read came out tops.  Not surprisingly, less vacation time leads to more stressed physicians, and many report taking two weeks or less of time off a year.  Doctors who say they are burned out rate their physical health worse than those who don’t report such a condition.  There is no drinking difference between the groups.  And finally, there is not association of burnout with political views.  This is a topic to watch very carefully, it bears on the quality and even availability of physicians.

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