Doctors work hard, and some of them are taking it to extremes — about half of all physicians say that they're burned out, and completely exhausted.
Nearly 1 in 2 U.S. physicians report at least one symptom of being burned out.
All of this can erode professionalism, compromise quality of care, increase medical errors and encourage early retirement.
This info is based on a survey of 7,288 physicians conducted in June 2011.
They were asked to fill out a 22-item questionnaire, which is a little thing called the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), and happens to be the gold standard for measuring burnout.
Then they were asked how long they worked each week, how satisfied they were with their work-life balance, and whether they had any symptoms of depression or thoughts of suicide.
That's when the oh shizz moment sets in — 45.8% of doctors experienced at least one symptom of work-related burnout; when each symptom was considered separately, 37.9% of the physicians had high emotional exhaustion, 29.4% had high depersonalization and 12.4% had a low sense of personal accomplishment.
This is what we call "alarming."
Here's what the study author said:
“Our finding is concerning given the extensive literature linking burnout to medical errors and lower quality of care. Most previous studies of physicians from individual specialties have suggested a burnout rate of 30% to 40%. Thus, the prevalence of burnout among physicians appears to be higher than in the past.”
Specifically, the worst kind of practitioners were: emergency medicine, general internal medicine and family medicine.
The study leader continued:
“Nearly 60% of physicians in those specialties had high levels of burnout. This is concerning since many elements critical to the success of health care reform are built upon increasing the role of the primary care providers.”
Lower rates were found in pathology, dermatology, general pediatrics and preventive medicine.
They found that physicians worked about 10 hours more per week than other people on average (50 hours a week versus 40) — which starts to paint the picture for us.
That's not all, though:
“While individuals in other professions do experience burnout, it seems to be largely driven by the hours. In addition to their high work hours, there appears to be factors related to the nature of the work that increase the risk for physicians.
“Unfortunately, little evidence exists about how to address this problem. Policy makers and health care organizations must address the problem of physician burnout for the sake of physicians and their patients.”
We're just glad that "burn out" doesn't mean they're high all the time.
We kid — we just don't have an answer for this either. How can we fix this problem when health care is on the rise?
[Image via AP Images.]