Newest surveys show high prevalence of physician burnout, especially among women

Lately, there have been quite a few new surveys released that deal with the patterns pervasive in physician burnout. In this post, we have provided some of the key points from three of these surveys in an overview aimed at strategically rooting out burnout’s causes and resolving its effects. This first survey was conducted by Amanda Weidner, MPH, of the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency Network in Seattle. It shows that family practice physicians are, “significantly less likely to experience burnout,” if they have a wider scope of practice. Frontline Medical News reports:
Maintaining a broad scope of practice for family physicians can help fulfill the “triple aims” (enhancing patient experience, improving population health, and reducing costs) – now sometimes characterized as the “quadruple aims”with the addition of preventing burnout – of health system performance, said Ms. Weidner. In addition to proven cost reduction, she said, maintaining a broad scope of practice in family practice can enhance the patient experience and improve population health. If increased scope of practice also is associated with improved physician satisfaction, then it will also contribute to the fourth aim, she said.

Questioners in the audience asked Ms. Weidner and her collaborators to dive a little deeper into the data. One audience member remarked that she sees colleagues scheduling themselves for inpatient coverage or an afternoon of endometrial biopsies and other procedures as a strategy to avoid clinic time. She asked whether it’s the practice variety or the reduced number of clinic hours per week that’s driving the lower burnout rates.

Ms. Weidner acknowledged the possibility that working in other practice settings might reduce workload in terms of paperwork and patient communication. However, she pointed out that the number of hours worked per week was not associated with burnout; additionally, she said, both physicians who reported burnout and those who did not saw about the same number of patients per day.Click here to read the full article from Frontline Medical News

The second survey presented here reports that women experience more burnout and practice fewer self-care activities than their male colleagues. Frontline Medical News reports:
Female respondents to the Texas-wide electronic survey of practicing physicians and residents reported more emotional exhaustion (P = .004) and higher levels of work stress (P = .009) than their male colleagues. Additionally, they reported sleeping less (P = .009), exercising less (P = .001), and eating healthy food less often (P = .005).

Sarah Holder, DO, and her coinvestigators built on previous research showing that physicians were the exception to the general rule that higher educational status can, in the general workforce, protect against burnout. Middle-career physicians see the highest levels of emotional exhaustion and burnout, Dr. Holder said in a poster presented at the annual meeting of the North American Primary Care Research Group.

Dr. Holder said she was surprised by the pervasively higher rates of burnout and lower levels of self-care the survey revealed among family physicians in Texas. She would have been less surprised to see the association in female physicians with children, but, she said, unpublished data didn’t bear that association out.

“Creating wellness programs during residency that are aimed at teaching physicians to incorporate self-care into their routines, especially females, may lead to decreased rates of burnout later in physicians’ careers,” said Dr. Holder.Click here to read the full article from Frontline Medical News

Our final survey was given not to family medicine physicians, but to cardiologists. It however found very similar results to the previous surveys including a general prevalence and a gender gap. Frontline Medical News reports:
A disturbingly high 27% of U.S. cardiologists reported currently feeling burnout in the American College of Cardiology’s third Professional Life Survey, Laxmi S. Mehta, MD, said at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.

A gender gap existed: The prevalence of burnout was 29% greater among female cardiologists than their male counterparts, by a margin of 31%-24%.

Moreover, among those cardiologists who didn’t feel burned out, the majority reported they felt stressed, a state that can easily tip over into burnout in the setting of unremitting pressure, observed Dr. Mehta, director of the women’s cardiovascular health program at Ohio State University in Columbus.

“These are the doctors who are taking care of people’s hearts, and we know that when you’re burned out, there are higher rates of medical errors and the quality of care is poorer. So this is problematic,” she said in an interview.

Burnout had a negative effect on career satisfaction: While 94% of cardiologists in the nonburnout group professed they were satisfied with their career, that was the case for only 74% of cardiologists who felt burnout. Just 56% percent of the burnout group said they would recommend cardiology as a career, compared with 80% of the practitioners who felt no burnout.Click here to read the full article from Frontline Medical News