According to a new study, burnout among physicians in the U.S. is 10% higher than it was three years ago. Findings from the study are published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings

In contrast, work-life balance remained mostly unchanged among U.S. workers in general which highlights the growing gap between physicians and workers in other fields. 

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, in partnership with the American Medical Association, compared metrics from 2014 to data collected in 2011. Survey results were based on 6,880 physicians across the country as well as a population-based sample of 5,313 working adults in other fields. They found that over half of U.S. physicians were in a state of professional burnout. 

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The 2011 survey indicated that 45% of physicians were considered to be in the “burnout” criteria with the highest rates seen in general internal medicine, family medicine, and emergency medicine. In 2014, however, 54% of respondents experienced at least 1 symptom of burnout. Surveyed physicians reported a decline in satisfaction with work-life balance. No overall increase in work hours or rates of depression were reported.

Tait Shanafelt, MD, explained, “Burnout manifests as emotional exhaustion, loss of meaning in work, and feelings of ineffectiveness.” This burnout was observed in physicians in almost all specialties. Burnout can lead to poor patient care, physician turnover, and an overall reduced quality of the healthcare system.

Study authors stated that this growing problem is “largely a system issue” and that healthcare organizations need to do more to help physicians by “improving the efficiency of the practice environment, reducing clerical burden, and providing physicians greater flexibility and control over work.” 

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