Dr. Murray Feingold: Physician burnout — all too common
Physician burnout is a serious problem. It not only affects physicians and their families, but it also has an impact on their patients. Prior studies have shown that of all workers, physicians have the highest rate of burnout.
A Medscape study completed a year ago came up with some interesting and disturbing findings on this subject. In this study, overall, there was a burnout rate of 40 percent. Burnout was defined as a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism and a low sense of personal accomplishment.
Those with the highest rate of burnout were doctors in emergency medicine, critical care and family practice. Physicians in the specialties of pathology, psychiatry, ophthalmology and pediatrics had the lowest percentages of burnout.
The most common causes of burnout included too much bureaucratic paperwork, long working hours, impact of the Affordable Care Act, lack of professional fulfillment and inability to provide patients the care they need.
Forty-five percent of women reported burnout in contrast to 37 percent of men. The highest rate of burnout was in physicians between the ages of 46 and 55.
Doctors who were burned out spent less time going on vacations. Forty percent spent two weeks or less on vacations, which was significantly less time than doctors who did not experience burnout.
The favorite pastimes of both groups of doctors were the same: spending time with their families.
These statistics are very discouraging. The United States is presently facing a physician shortage, which is predicted to get worse with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. We cannot afford to lose any more physicians.
Being a physician has never been an easy life. Working long hours is a way of life and doctors were aware of this when they decided to become physicians.
However, the increasing amount of paperwork, the loss of decision-making in managing their patients and other issues have had a negative impact on physicians’ happiness with their professional choice.
So, add physician burnout as one more of a long list of issues that need to be addressed to help repair an already struggling medical care system.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.