Physician Burnout Remains Significant Problem for Healthcare Providers
In a study conducted by Medscape, a large portion of healthcare providers are still reporting physician burnout. A whopping 44 percent of those interviewed rated themselves burned out, with an additional 11 percent labeling themselves as “colloquially depressed”.
Considering that more than one doctor per day commits suicide—a higher rate than any other profession and more than double that of the general population—these statistics are sobering.
Physician Burnout by Numbers
The survey results reveal that male and female physicians deal with burnout differently on a number of levels. Male physicians are more likely to deal with burnout via exercise—51 percent of males vs 43 percent of females—whereas their female counterparts are more likely to seek relief through speaking with friends and family members—52 percent of female respondents vs 37 percent of male. Women are also more likely to eat junk food to cope (38 percent vs 27 percent). However, men and women providers are both equally likely to turn to alcohol, with 23 and 21 percent respectively.
The leading causes of physician burnout include too many administrative tasks, spending too much time at work, the complexities of EHR systems, insufficient compensation/reimbursement, and the sensation of “feeling like a cog in a wheel”.
Urology, Neurology, and PT report the highest levels of physician burnout, at 54, 53, and 52 percent respectively. Public Health, Mephrology, and Pathology have the lowest levels of burnout, with only 28, 32, and 33 percent of respondents declaring burnout.
Even more alarming is the rate at which healthcare providers seek—or fail to seek—aid regarding their burnout. Only 13 percent reported currently seeking professional help, with an additional 3 percent saying it was in their plans. The overwhelming majority—67 percent of respondents—say they have not, and have not sought professional help in the past.
Respondents reported that these feelings have made them consider earlier retirement, become frustrated with patients and fellow staff members, and even, in some instances, consider suicide.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick, easy fix for physician burnout. As Dr. Pamela Wible puts it: “Medical training teaches us to ‘suck it up’, so help-seeking is not a well-honed skill amongst doctors. Because the majority of doctors are overworked, exhausted, and discontent, they’ve normalized their misery and pretend it’s not as bad as it seems.” More likely than not, an overhaul of how medicine is practiced will be the only true herald of change, but that’s far from an easy task.