Burnout Increasing Among U.S. Physicians

Burnout is defined as, “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, loss of meaning in work, feelings of ineffectiveness, and a tendency to view people as objects rather than as human beings.” According to a new study from the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association (AMA), 54% of 7,000 surveyed physicians in the U.S. experience some level of burnout and it is only getting worse. Meanwhile, burnout among people working in other occupations remained the same in the 3 years that research was conducted. The long-term consequences of physician burnout are negatively affecting the quality of physician care and the overall healthcare delivery system.
National groups and individual health care organizations have been testing solutions to prevent burnout. Stanford recently launched a time banking program that allows busy physicians to receive credits for delivered meals and help with household tasks in exchange for mentoring and other uncompensated work. The AMA recently initiated the STEPS Forward program, which provides access to free resources for self-care and for improving workflow to reduce burnout. Inflexible office hours came up as a key stressor for one group of physicians. With a simple policy change, the doctors were able to see patients earlier in the day and leave work on time in order to spend time with their families. With this and other targeted changes, burnout rates in that group dropped significantly. Overall the study substantiates both the significance of burnout and the importance of fixing not just the symptoms, but in fixing the very way that the system allows burnout to persist.

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