9 Insights from the Latest Physician Burnout Survey

Physician burnout survey continues to show it's a major problem in healthcare

The latest Medscape physician burnout survey, which was distributed to more than 15,000 physicians, has some been released the results are sobering.

Here are nine insights from the latest survey.

FOUR OUT OF TEN PHYSICIANS ARE EXPERIENCING BURNOUT

Among all physicians who responded to the survey, 4 out of 10 reported burnout. In addition, 15% admitted experiencing either clinical (severe) or colloquial (“feeling down”) forms of depression. That’s more than double the percentage of all American adults who suffered at least one depressive episode in the past year.

SPECIALTIES AND BURNOUT
Several specialties reported higher burnout levels than others.

The highest rates of burnout occurred among intensivists and neurologists (48%), followed by family physicians (47%), ob/gyns and internists (46%), and emergency medicine physicians and radiologists (45%).

Who reported the lowest levels of burnout?

Plastic surgeons, dermatologists, pathologists and ophthalmologists reported the lowest rates of burnout (23% – 33%).

BURNOUT and DEPRESSION
Fourteen percent of all physicians surveyed said they are both burnout and depressed. The highest rates were found among ob/gyns, public health physicians, urologists, and neurologists.

GENDER, AGE and BURNOUT
Similar to previous years, female physicians reported higher levels of burnout compared to males (48% and 38% respectively).

Age also appears to be a major factor.

According to the report, the burnout rate is lowest among the age group 28-34. It then climbs until half of physicians between 45 and 54 report burnout. The burnout rate then declines to 41% between ages 55 and 69.

FACTORS AFFECTING DEPRESSION
The physicians were asked to rate factors that contributed to their depression. Not surprisingly, “job” was the highest rated factor, followed by “finances” and “family.” The ratings were similar for both men and women.

DEPRESSION AND ITS EFFECT ON CARE AND COLLEAGUES
Among the physicians who reported depression, 40% believe their depression has no effect on patient care. However, about one-third said they are more easily exasperated by patients or less engaged with them as a result of their depressive state. Fourteen percent admitted their depression leads to errors they wouldn’t normally make.

Depression also affected their relationships with colleagues. Forty-two percent indicated exasperation or less engagement with staff and peers, and well over a third said they express frustration or are less friendly around colleagues as a result of their depressive state.

FREQUENCY OF BURNOUT and REASONS FOR BURNOUT
How often do physicians say they experience burnout? On a scale of 1 to 7 with 7 being always, nearly half (48%) chose 5 or higher.

Not surprisingly, “too many bureaucratic tasks” was the highest rated contributing factor to their burnout, followed by “spending too many hours at work,” and “lack of respect from administrators, employers, colleagues or staff.” Just 16% chose government regulations as a major contributing factor.

TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE BURNOUT
What would reduce their burnout? Over a third (35%) thought increased compensation would help and 31% said a “more manageable work schedule or hours.”

How do they cope? About half said exercise and talking with family members or friends, while a third said they find solace in junk food, binge eating and drinking alcohol (22%). A few said nicotine, prescription drugs or marijuana was their coping choices.

In general, most physicians are not seeking professional help for their burnout. Only 31% of women said they had been under professional care, while 24% of men said the same.

HAPPINESS AT WORK and COPING MECHANISMS
Is anybody happy at work?

Ophthalmologists, orthopedists, plastic surgeons, and pathologists were most likely to say they were very or extremely happy at work. The lowest percentages occurred among cardiologists, internists, intensivists and family physicians.

Those physicians who indicated they were not burnt out were asked how they deal with their work-related stress. Most often, the respondents said they maintain a positive attitude about their jobs, strive to manage expectations, and try to balance their work and home lives. Some, however, got the luck of the draw. They have flexible schedules, work part-time or locum tenens, have supportive colleagues, or enjoy a good work environment.