Study: Doctors At Risk Of Higher Burnout Rates Than Other Workers.
Reuters (8/21, Joelving) reports that according to a study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, physicians are at a higher risk of burnout than the general population of employed people in the US. The study — which surveyed more than 7,000 doctors and a random sample of 3,400 employed people who were not physicians — found that 38 percent of doctors reported burnout symptoms, compared to 28 percent of the non-doctors. Reuters adds that “frontline” physicians, such as ED or family practice doctors, were the most susceptible to burnout, while dermatologists and preventive care specialists reported the lowest rates of burnout. However, Reuters notes, the study did suffer from a high non-participation rate, with only a quarter of the physicians invited agreeing to answer the questionnaire.
Bloomberg News (8/21, Pettypiece) reports, “The number of doctors reporting feeling burned out is surprising and troubling, said Tait Shanafelt, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and lead study author. He said the trend may cause physicians to quit or reduce their workload just as demand for doctors is increasing with the aging population” and the expected rise of patients due to the Affordable Care Act. Still, Bloomberg notes, “There was no increased rate of depression or suicide among doctors compared with the general population, a sign that the burnout is specific to the work environment, Shanafelt said.”
USA Today (8/21, Lloyd) also notes that the writers described the findings as “alarming” and notes that the study comes as “the medical profession prepares for treating millions of patients who will be newly insured under the health care law.” USA Today quotes Shanafelt as saying, “Before health care reform takes hold, it’s a concern that those docs are already operating at the margins.” USA Today adds, “The burnout rate is nearly twice as high as in an earlier report by physician Mark Linzer, director of the Hennepin Healthcare System in Minneapolis,” who “is not associated with the Mayo study” and had “found 26.5% of doctors complain of burnout.”
Reporting on the news study and noting previous research finding high levels of physician stress, Huffington Post (8/21) says, “All these findings paint a bleak picture on physician burnout — so what’s a doctor to do? Well, mindfulness meditation could help. University of Rochester Medical Center researchers found in 2009 that mindfulness meditation decreased burnout symptoms and improved feelings of well-being in doctors who underwent weekly sessions of the practice.”
HealthDay (8/21, Mozes) notes that researchers “administered the survey in 2010 to a sampling from an American Medical Association database,” and they “found that just shy of 46 percent of participants, overall, said they had experienced at least one symptom of burnout. Nearly 38 percent specifically said they were subject to ‘high emotional exhaustion,’ while almost 30 percent said that cynicism was an issue.”
MedPage Today (8/21, Petrochko) reports, “Respondents tended to be older and graduated from medical school longer ago than the total physician population. Burnout symptoms were identified as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low sense of personal accomplishment, and measured through a 22-item questionnaire.” MedPage Today adds, “Compared with the general population, healthcare professionals worked a median 10 hours more a week (50 versus 40 hours), and 37.9% of physicians reported working 60 or more hours, versus 10.6% of the general population.”