About 1 in 2 doctors are burned out, showing signs of emotional exhaustion and little interest in work as patient loads increase, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Doctors working in emergency medicine, family medicine, and internal medicine were the most likely to feel drained, according to the study. Researchers said burnout also was tied to long hours, with 37 percent of physicians working more than 60 hours a week.
Mayo Clinic researchers surveyed 7,288 physicians across all practice areas to measure levels of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and sense of professional accomplishment. The data was compared with surveys of the general population. The study found that 45.8% of physicians experience at least one of those symptoms.
Tait Shanafelt, who led the study, said the trend may cause physicians to quit or reduce their workload just as demand for doctors is increasing with the aging population. The issue may get worse as 32 million Americans are expected to get health insurance by 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, increasing the number of people seeking medical care, he said.
“Right at a time when we are trying to provide care to people who are uninsured and projecting workforce shortages we are seeing this burnout rate creep in, which may cause physicians to reduce workloads and consider early retirement,” Shanafelt said.
Source: Bloomberg News, August 20, 2012.