Survey: Physician Burnout On The Rise

A total of 44% of physicians experience burnout, according to a recent survey, up 42% from last year—and 11% report depression.

The findings are part of the Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019.

Urologists reported the most burnout at 54%, followed by those working in neurology (53%), physical medicine & rehabilitation (52%), internal medicine (49%), emergency medicine (48%), and family medicine (48%). In 2018, the top five most burned-out specialties were critical care (48%), neurology (48%), family medicine (47%), ob/gyn (46%), and internal medicine (46%). For 2019, the least burnout was reported in public health & preventative medicine (28%), nephrology (32%), pathology (33%), ophthalmology (34%), otolaryngology (36%), and plastic surgery (36%). In 2018, plastic surgeons (23%), dermatologists (32%), and pathologists (32%) reported the least burnout.

Similar to last year, women (50%) are more likely to report burnout than men (39%)—although both sexes have seen an increase in burnout compared to last year, when 48% of women and 38% of men reported burnout.

The most widely reported source of burnout was administrative tasks, such as charting and paperwork (59%), followed by long hours on the job (34%) and the increasing use of electronic health records (EHRs). Some open-ended comments from specialists included:

  • “There’s so much redundant work due to incompetent third parties’ data collection.” – Endocrinologist
  • “It’s too hard to schedule time off; the rules on clinic cancellation plus poor administrative support to help organize and plan anything make it impossible.” – Internist
  • “All that paperwork sucks all of the enjoyment out of being a doctor.” – Family physician
  • “Fear of litigation, bad reviews, and complaints make everything worse.” – Dermatologist

Physicians working longer hours are more likely to experience burnout. Among those who work 31–40 hours a week, 36% report burnout, compared to 57% of those working more than 70 hours a week. General surgeons (77%), urologists (76%), cardiologists (72%), pulmonologists (68%), and nephrologists (68%) are the most likely to work more than 51 hours each week.

One internist reported, “Burnout is mostly due to lack of sleep because the EHR takes so much time. I used to be able to chart on a patient in 5–10 minutes for established patients. Now it takes 20–40 minutes to chart on an established patient.”

Respondents described the poor outcomes associated with their health, career, and personal life as a result of burnout:

  • “I dread coming to work. I find myself being short when dealing with staff and patients.” – Neurologist
  • “I’m drinking more and have become less active.” – Anesthesiologist
  • “My relationships have withered … my family is frustrated. We rarely make plans to do anything socially as they are likely to be canceled.” – General surgeon
  • “I’m having medical problems as a result; having recurrent miscarriages.” – Family physician

When asked if they’ve ever felt suicidal, 14% said they have, while 1% said they have attempted suicide.

Most physicians (64%) are not seeking professional help and have never done so in the past.

The survey included 15,069 U.S.-based physicians spanning more than 29 specialties. Respondents were mostly male (62%) and aged between 50–54 (14%), 55–59 (16%), and 60–64 (15%). Family medicine (13%) and pediatrics (10%) were the top two most represented specialties.

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Source: Medscape