Survey: 42% of Physicians Report Burnout, Some Cite Depression

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Tue Jan 23 17:06:59 PST 2018


       

 

January 17, 2018

 

Survey: 42% of Physicians Report Burnout, Some Cite Depression 

 

 

 
<https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/891411?nlid=120125_1361&src=WNL_mdplsn
ews_180119_mscpedit_emed&uac=116715AZ&spon=45&impID=1537917&faf=1> Medscape

 

 

By Alicia Ault

 

Forty-two percent of physicians said they feel burned out, while 15%
reported feeling depressed, according to a new Medscape survey.

Half of those who reported burnout experienced those feelings on a regular
basis. Of the smaller number of physicians who reported depression, 70%
called it "colloquial," while 19% said they had clinical depression.

Those reporting to be the happiest at work were ophthalmologists,
orthopedists, plastic surgeons, and pathologists. Those who were the least
happy included clinicians in diabetes and endocrinology; family medicine;
critical care; internal medicine; and, at the bottom, cardiology. Some
15,000 physicians from 29 specialties participated in the Medscape survey.

Burnout was reported at the highest rates by critical care physicians (48%),
neurologists (48%), and family medicine doctors (47%). In a large number of
specialties, 40% or more of the respondents said they felt burned out. Among
oncologists, 39% reported burnout. Lower numbers - but still somewhat large
- of orthopedic physicians (34%), ophthalmologists (33%), pathologists
(32%), and dermatologists (32%) said they were burned out.

The smallest number of clinicians who said they were burned out were plastic
surgeons, with just 23% reporting that feeling.

Medscape also asked whether physicians felt both burnout and depression.
Ob/gyns were the leaders, with 20% saying they felt both. Specialists in
public health and preventive medicine, urology, neurology, and family
medicine followed. At the bottom, just 8% of psychiatrists said they were
both burned out and depressed.

Women tended to report feeling burned out more than men. Mid-career
physicians also seemed to be hit the hardest, with half of those aged 45 to
54 reporting burnout.

For those who said they felt depressed, the job was the biggest contributing
factor, approaching a 6 on a 7-point scale used by Medscape. Finances
followed, at around 4, with health considered the least important factor in
depression.

Too much bureaucracy and paperwork was the main factor contributing to
burnout, listed by 56% of respondents. Spending too much time at work, and
lack of respect - from colleagues, administrators, or staff - took the
second and third spots.

Government regulations, decreasing reimbursement, emphasis on profit over
patients, and maintenance of certification requirements were all also listed
as burnout factors, but were less important, with only about 15% to 16% of
respondents citing those.

Disconnect on Perceived Impact on Care 

Medscape asked physicians who reported feeling depressed whether their
depression had any impact on patient care. Some 40% said it did not affect
their interaction with patients.

However, about a third said they were less engaging, more exasperated, and
less friendly with patients because of their depression. Fourteen percent of
respondents said they make errors that might not otherwise occur.

A larger number seemed to recognize that their distress was affecting
interactions with staff and colleagues. Forty-two percent admitted to being
less engaged with or actively listening to staff and peers. An equal number
acknowledged being more easily exasperated, and a slightly smaller
percentage said they were less friendly and that they expressed frustration
in front of colleagues and staff.

Coping With Burnout 

Survey respondents were also asked about what might reduce their burnout,
what kinds of coping strategies they employ, including whether they might
seek professional help, and whether their workplace offered any sort of
assistance in dealing with burnout.

The most popular coping mechanisms were exercise - cited by 50% overall,
with slightly more men than women favoring that - and talking with family
and friends. More women than men said they turned to friends or family.
Sleeping and isolating themselves from others were also much employed, as
was listening to music. A third said they would eat junk food, and a fifth
turned to alcohol. Few clinicians - less than 3% - said they used
prescription drugs or marijuana to cope.

Similarly, a small number of survey respondents said they currently were
receiving professional help or planned to do so. Sixty-six percent of men
and 58% of women said they were not receiving counseling and had not done so
in the past. Not surprisingly, the specialists most likely to seek help were
psychiatrists, followed by plastic surgeons. At the bottom, 17% of
cardiologists said they would be likely to do so.

Nonhospital academic practices, healthcare organizations, and hospitals were
most likely to offer a workplace program to help. Office-based single
specialty and solo practices were least likely. Only 10% of respondents from
single practices said that a program was place. Interestingly, the highest
number of clinicians who said they had used such a program were in
office-based solo practices.

Some of the respondents had advice for colleagues on how to avoid burnout,
including finding a way to make themselves happy on the job. Another
suggested leaving the laptop at the office. "Stay at work until 6:00 pm if
need be to finish your work, but when you go home, BE at home," the
respondent said.

Said another respondent, "Count your blessings."

 

 

Jeff Wells
Deputy Editor, CAL/AAEM News Service

 

Brian Potts MD, MBA
Managing Editor, CAL/AAEM News Service

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