According to USA Today, a recent survey by the Mayo Clinic reveals that nearly half of physicians (45.8%) suffer from at least one symptom of burn out.
The report attributes the increasing rate of stress and burn out in physicians to a decline in control and autonomy, and the pressure to do more and see more patients in less time.
Furthermore, the highest rate of burn out were reported by physicians in emergency medicine, internal medicine, neurology, and family medicine.
Some industry analysts project that physician burn out has many detrimental effects including declining quality of care, increased error rates, and early retirement of physicians.
How will this impact the physician workforce? Of course it remains to be seen, but at a time when healthcare is in highest demand ever, and 30 million Americans will be gaining health insurance, this could be a concerning factor.
The article does not address in depth what can be done to minimize the burn out rate for physicians. Most likely, the pressure that many physicians are feeling to see more patients and do more work is not going to go away or reverse itself. In fact, the pressure may only get worse as more government regulations, changes, and demands are implemented over the next several years.
It does offer the suggestion of building comprehensive health care teams of healthcare providers and professionals so that the burden of care can be shared by all members of the team, rather than shouldered solely by the physician.
Strong support systems, flexible schedules, and stress-reducing therapies such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and other remedies might help to some degree. In fact, on the recent finale episode of NY Med, the ABC reality show about physicians, one of the trauma surgeons stops for a visit to the acupuncturist on his way home from the OR.
In an online poll on About.com Health Careers, 34% of 119 respondents listed exercise and working out as the best remedy for reducing stress. Other remedies including a strong support group of family and friends, counseling services, massage therapy, hobbies and creative outlets, and doing something that makes you laugh.
All indications point to the likelihood of a continued increase of burn-out among the physician workforce. If resources are not devoted to helping t0 alleviate this trend, the physician workforce will be significantly and negatively impacted.