Are you burned out?

This morning, we are looking at a recent study about burned-out doctors. The conclusion:

Although the practice of medicine can be incredibly meaningful and personally fulfilling, it is also demanding and stressful. Results of studies suggest that many physicians experience professional burnout, a syndrome characterized by a loss of enthusiasm for work (emotional exhaustion), feelings of cynicism (depersonalization), and a low sense of personal accomplishment.

I know you’re thinking what I thought: “Well, they may be burned but probably not as burned out as the rest of us.”


Compared with a probability-based sample of 3,442 working US adults, physicians were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (37.9% vs 27.8%) and to be dissatisfied with work-life balance (40.2% vs 23.2%).

So how about you? Burned out?

You can pay for the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the questionnaire used in this study that is “considered the gold standard tool for measuring burnout.” Or you can take a free, online test that I found by searching “burnout test.”

–Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Kelly

    I am, or was a medical doctor, who burned out relatively quickly – watching my physician teachers depersonalization, frustration, and poor quality of life made me think twice about continuing to practice in a failing medical system. I left medicine to pursue a career in natural medicine where I now can practice “health care” the way I want to – BEST decision of my life!

  • Thanks for the comments Kelly. I’m going to read them on the air.

  • Issy

    It’s an internal conflict of wanting to serve as many people as possible and wanting to make as much money as possible that leads to burnout.

  • Sarah

    I am a fellow (PGY7). I have seen an increase in education on burnout but its just one more thing I am required to do contributing to stress, not helping.

  • Stacy

    My boyfriend was really passionate about going to medical school to be a doctor, but he saw what was happening to his friends. He saw their levels of stress and how much of their lives they have to give up to long work hours. In the end, he decided on a different career where he doesn’t work most weekends and can just relax at home after work.

    I’m sure the medical profession looses a lot of good doctors this way.

  • Daniel Hennessy

    Might not the depersonalization, albeit inadvertently, be a way of coping with burn out, i would think it all would be less stressful if you didn’t really care so much.

  • Mark

    Why is the most obvious solution not being talked about?

    People burn out because they are working past their capacity. Thus, the solution is to simply work less. That’s it.

  • Kari Michalski

    We are missing the boat if we don’t talk about all health care providers. Physicians are not unique in this. I am an advance practice nurse. We are all asked to do more with less, less time, less money, less assistance by office staff, more bare bones benefit packages.

    Additionally, patients are coming in wanting answers for problems that are well within their power to change. There are many lifestyle related diagnoses that people want a pill or a lab test for. These patients require a great deal of time to work with, and they are dissatisfied if not given a medical solution.

    Provider burnout is a reflection of greater societal ills.

  • Lindsay

    I don’t know if this is right or not, but maybe a problem that causes burn out is that patients forget that doctors have problems too because they’re worried about their health and want answers. Maybe patients need to learn to be more empathetic as well, and maybe we need to educate the public on what doctors and med students go through, so at least, we can show doctors that we are thankful for the work they do for us and show our support.

  • Ted Jolien

    I work with physicians everyday and when docs loose control of their independent practices and become part of a large integrated institution and now most practice under much more restrictive conditions than before, they really seem to be less happy with their career choice. In addition, almost universally physicians say that insurance mandates control what they do everyday with patients. I hear both of these things everyday from physicians and see their job satisfaction consistently decline because of them.

  • stevie

    I believe the biggest issue is the industrialization of medicine. Think about the hippocratic oath the doctors take. It is exactly the opposite of what is being required by the large healthcare providers of the doctors which is to see as many patients in a smaller amount of time. The new healthcare model is slowly killing doctors, their families and patients.

    True doctors do not go into medicine to make money but an interest to be a healer. Those who do become doctors to make $s will have a rude awakening. May be it is time to take a serious look at a single payer health system?

  • Margaret

    I think there are 2 other things contributing to burn-out:

    the everpresent risk of being sued for malpractice, even if you are doing everything right

    the fact that many modern physicians have a spouse who also has a career leading to more stress overall on the family unit. I think this particularly affects female physicians.

  • Nancy Kate

    I am a hospital based physician (a hospitalist). In my opinion, the Electronic Medical Record has become a time-consuming, demoralizing, compassion-exhausting monster. The time hospital doctors must spend documenting their care (in order to justify the visit charge and the pt’s need for inpatient care) and responding to myriad documentation requirements and prompts to meet mushrooming numbers of regulatory and quality improvement measures, means that we spend more time in front of the computer screen than with patients or coordinating their care with other caregivers. And more of our thinking and decison-making is tangential to the care of the patient. The system and incentives are aligned to treat the EMR as the patient, and the patient in the bed as simply the “patient proxy” representing a compilation of actionable disease processes. It is only through personal resolve and long punishing hours that I continue striving to take care of patients as people. It is getting harder and harder to do this.

    It is ironic to me that the EMR has been publized as the answer to improved medical quality. It has promise, but in its current incarnation it has worsened our ability to care for patients as people, and has burned out compassinate physicians. This is not sustainable.

  • Anne

    I am a primary care physician. After I had my daughter, I decided I did not want to work more than 40 hours per week. I dropped down to 60% time and I am still working more than 40 hours per week. I am getting pushed because I am not generating enough revenue for the practice to meet my 60% position. I spend 6 hours a day seeing patients, and another 4 hours answering phone calls, notifying people of lab results, and complying with quality measures for which I am not reimbursed. I love the practice and I take pride in my work, but it is frustrating that Medicare and thus my employer pay me the same to spend 60 seconds taking ear wax out of someone’s ear as to spend 20 minutes helping someone quit smoking or treat depression.

  • Erika

    Excellent area of study. Now let’s also assess the nurse practitioners and physician assistants who serve in the same roles but have the additional stress of a much lower salary and less benefits.