Half of the general practitioners in the United States are experiencing burnout, according to a recent survey. That is a seven percent increase over 2013.
The burnout rate for primary care physicians is at a level similar to internists, general surgeons and infectious disease specialists, and lower only than critical care and emergency medicine physicians. Physicians in these last two specialtsies report burnout rates slightly above the 50 percent level. In the survey, burnout is defined as a loss of enthusiasm, having a more pessimistic attitude toward the profession, and taking little satisfaction in work.
While these figures are certainly eye-catching, even more striking is the increase in the burnout rate for primary care physicians under the age of 35. In 2013, these younger physicians reported burnout rates of less than 10 percent. By 2015, however, the burnout rate had jumped to more than 40 percent.
The physicians were also asked to rate the severity of their burnout symptoms on a scale of 1 to 7. A 1 indicated that the feeling was negligible and had little effect on the physician’s work and life. A 7, on the other hand, indicated that the burnout was so debilitating that the physician was considering leaving the profession. On that scale, primary care physicians’ average score came out to a 4.17, the eighth highest of all the specialties. Areas with higher scores included nephrology, cardiology, and plastic surgery, which came out between 4.3 and 4.4.
At the low end of the burnout spectrum are dermatologists, psychiatrists, and pathologists, all hovering around the high 30 percent level.
The problem of burnout is a growing concern to healthcare experts because of its effect on patient care, and because it can result in more physicians leaving the practice of medicine. The leading factors that lead to burnout, according to physicians, are such things as too much bureaucratic paperwork, no work-life balance, and too little income.
In fact, the study revealed that income and debt were significant factors leading to physician dissatisfaction. Nearly half of the physicians who reported burnout also complained of having scant savings and high levels of debt, compared to just 33 percent of satisfied physicians reporting similar financial problems.
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