New Study Shows Drastic Increase in Physician Burnout Symptoms in 2021

21 Sep, 2022 F.J. Thomas

                               

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Earlier this year, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory warning on the record levels of burnout among healthcare workers in general. Even prior to the pandemic, 54 percent of practitioners and 60 percent of medical students reported symptoms of burnout. According to some estimates, the annual cost of burnout is around $2.6 to $6.3 billion for physicians and $9 billion for nurses.

A new study published this month in Mayo Clinic Proceedings supports other recent studies showing high levels of physician burnout. Led by Tait Shanafelt, who is the chief wellness officer at Stanford Medicine, researchers evaluated the levels of burnout and contentment with work-life integration in physicians against comparative data as far back as 2011. Surveyed through January of this year, 2,440 US physicians were assessed on not only burnout and WLI, but also on professional fulfillment and depression.

Based on emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scores, 62.8 percent of physicians had at least one symptom of burnout in 2021. By comparison, 38.2 percent had at least one manifestation of burnout in 2020, 43.9 percent in 2017, 54.4 percent in 2014, and 45.5 percent in 2011. Average emotional exhaustion scores increased 38.6 percent from 2020 to 2021. Average depersonalization scores also increased 60.7 during the same period.

The satisfaction of WLI decreased, going from 46.1 percent in 2020 to 30.2 percent last year. Additionally, fewer providers are feeling fulfilled in the jobs. Forty percent of physicians reported feeling fulfilled in 2020 but only 22.4 percent stated they were fulfilled in their jobs in 2021. In 2020, 72.2 percent of physicians stated they would remain in medicine if given a choice. For 2021, however, only 57.1 percent stated they would make the same career choice.

The researchers found that women physicians were at increased risk for burnout and work-life conflict. The risk odds ratio for women was 2.02 in 2021, up from 1.27 in 2020. Although the increased burnout risk for women has long been documented, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly exacerbated that risk. Additionally, the researchers found an association between longer work hours and lower odds of contentment with work-life balance as well as higher levels of burnout. The researchers also noted a difference in specialties. The odds ratio for burnout and dissatisfaction was higher for those physicians working in emergency medicine, family medicine, and general pediatrics.

Overall the researchers concluded that because average depression scores were modest, the increase in symptoms of burnout were overwhelmingly due to work related issues. The researchers felt that the results of the study show the efforts to reduce physician burnout at employer, state, and government levels are critically important.


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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