Doctor Burnout is Real

When assessed against a probability based sample of U.S. workers in other professions, physicians fare significantly worse. About 38% of physicians have burnout compared to 28% of all other workers. About 40% of physicians are unhappy about their work-life balance compared to 23% of all other workers.

Aaron Carroll. Study here.

Comments (11)

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  1. Jordan says:

    The study does admit that burnout has a correlation with higher degrees of education. Of course correlation does NOT mean causation, but it would be convenient.

  2. Alex says:

    More signs that the current system isn’t working; also, to me this points to a need for more doctors. The more doctors there are the less critical each becomes so they have more time to spend on themselves and their families.

  3. Floccina says:

    Another good reason to ease up on licensing and make it easier and cheaper to become a an MD.

  4. Devon Herrick says:

    It’s hard to say for sure, but the nature of doctors’ jobs may have something to do with why they become burned out more easily than other professions. They are at the mercy of third-party payers. Their customers don’t always take their advice but keep returning for more advice. The job is monotonous in many cases. Yet, society holds them in high esteem such that doctors have a hard time living up to what’s expected of them. Just the nature of having a job that involves having to see sick people all day would be stressful.

  5. Corey says:

    Jordan: The study shows that doctors get burnt out more than other professionals

    “After adjusting for hours worked per week, higher levels of education and professional degrees seem to reduce the risk for burnout in fields outside of medicine, whereas a degree in medicine (MD or DO) increases the risk. These results suggest that the experience of burnout among physicians does not simply mirror larger societal trends.”

  6. Dorothy Calabrese MD says:

    Physician burnout needs more careful study. Physicians can complain a lot, yet most often love medicine passionately. How they fill out burnout questionnaires is generally not specific enough and can lead to misleading conclusions.

    In the early eighties, patients generally had 80-20 coverage through employer-based private insurers. They could competitively choose their physician based on who was best for them – their choice. The patients came in excited to get well from very serious illness – particularly those who knew they needed a real diagnosis – one with scientific patholphysiology and real medical solutions. I’ve never signed on with any insurance company, which meant I have never been able to compete with everyone else who did and for whom these plan doctors were aggressively promoted by their plan. The effect of the PPO/HMO on independent solo physicians has created hee;on-earth for outliers who can’t receive appropriate care in their network. That poison seeps into the doctor-patient relationship when they are forced to escape the surly bonds of their network.

    Now when I see a new patient – many have spent years in networks / HMOs without the right diagnosis or appropriate care. They represent a very important patient demographic – outliers – patients who lie outside the usual spectrum of illness. Many are desperate to come in and get the right diagnosis and treatment advice. Many misguidedly think they;ll simply return to their PPO/HMO to bring back the “answer” key and continue in the HMO/PPO.

    Because my work for the past 30+ years deals with refractory allergic-immune patients and their treatment with custom immunotherapy, these patients return to their network – only to be told there is nothing available to them as outliers.

    Many are trapped financially in the HMO/PPO. Many are trapped psychologically in the PPO/HMO. They would spend a lot of money to buy a car or re-roof their house but they have been conditioned to expect no financial responsibility if they stick with their group with limited co-pays and lists of preferred doctors.

    I was born a pre-med. I will die in the saddle. The very real professional burnout I experience is ONLY from these endless doctor wars where doctors in power are invested in controlling our profession instead of promoting diversity and real doctor-patient relationship excellence. . . Ezekial Emmanuel MD, an excellent physician but who plays deus ex machina in this ongoing drama comes to mind.

    Thirty years ago, it was rare for me to see even one angry, overwhelmed outlier. That is because patients were always in control. . . they could choose any doctor. . . they paid their deductibles and 20% so they had significant skin in the game. . . their insurers and employers were happy they finally got the right diagnosis and were getting well. . .they focused on their illness. . .they had hope. . . their families had hope.

    For me the #1 problem I see is not real physician burnout – it is the extreme burnout I witness every day now of patients who lie outside the usual spectrum of illness and the sometimes insurmountable burden I now have of educating and restoring real hope before they can even start the healing journey.

    Dorothy Calabrese MD, San Clemente CA

  7. Julian Brantley says:

    While I’m not a doctor, I do not believe that burnout comes because they don’t love their jobs. I can only speculate, but if I was in a competitive educational environment for 8-10 years, then had to work 60-70 hours a week, for several years, to pay down my school debt, I would probably be pretty “tired” too. On top of everything, the government is expected you to see more patients, since some 30 million people who were previously not insured will have insurance. That’s a lot to ask.

  8. Joanne V. says:

    Doctors work 60+ hours a week. They even work during the holidays. They go to school for at least 8 years and then do their specialization for at least 4 years. Today’s med school graduates do not make nearly as much as those who graduated in the 60s and 70s because reimbursement rates have gone down so much. During their internships and residencies they work incredibly long hours to receive a decent paycheck.

    On top of all this, the administration is trying to cut the payments these doctors receive…and insurance companies don’t want to reimburse them the amount they earn per patient. There is absolutely no consideration for physicians and the job that they do, and how much time they invest in doing so. I would be “exhausted” too..

  9. Marcus R. says:

    Ironic how physicians are there to help other individuals stay healthy and live a longer/fullfiling life …yet they are the ones getting “worn out” by this oppressive system.

  10. Caroline H. says:

    Physicians are taken for granted…not just by the adminsitration, but by their own patients.

    They are judged and criticized by their patients because “all they care about” is how much they get reimbursed from insurance companies, and they don’t really look after the best interest of their patients.

    They are judged by the adminsitration because the amount of money they make is not proportionate with that of every other profession in the market. So what’s the answer according to the government? Let’s take away from the rich and give it to the less fortunate, whether they earn it or not. They are taking away from those who work every day of the week for long hours, to give to those who do nothing. How is that even ethical, to say the least? Not sure. Why are there still people supporting what this President does, when the consequences have been nothing but headaches to those who do work hard? Not sure either. Incentives is what physicians need, not like the President cares though..

  11. Charles Sanders says:

    No doubt it is! And it will only get worse under this administration..