Preventing Physician Burnout: Is There a Secret Recipe?

MAY 30, 2012
Philippa Kennealy, MD, MPH, CPCC, PCC
The recently published Physician Lifestyle Report: 2012 by Medscape starts to tell the story of what it is to be a physician in the U.S. today, beginning with an overall "happiness" rating.
 
“Approximately one in three physicians —both men and women — rated themselves a five and 40% rated themselves a four (suggesting "pretty happy"). The average happiness score for physicians who responded was 3.96, which is on the cheerful side but not overwhelmingly happy. When looking at happiness ratings by specialist, the five happiest were rheumatologists (4.09), dermatologists (4.05), urologists (4.04), ophthalmologists (4.03), and emergency medicine physicians (4.01). The three least happy professionals were tied at 3.88: neurologists, gastroenterologists, and internists. The next unhappiest were oncologists, general surgeons, and plastic surgeons, all tied at 3.89.”
 
The results of a separate online survey were released by the Physicians' Foundation in March 2012. According to the Foundation:
 
“Nearly 60% of physicians ages 40 and younger don't hold out much hope for American health care.
 
Among the 500 respondents, nearly a third (31%) said they were "highly pessimistic" about the future of the U.S. health care system. Another 26% characterized themselves as "somewhat" pessimistic. Four percent (4%) said they were "highly optimistic," and 18% claimed to be "somewhat" optimistic.
 
About a third of those who were pessimistic (34%) specifically cited the "new healthcare law/regulations" as the reason. But that proportion would come closer to half if those who provided responses such as "system is a mess," "distrust of government," "government intervention," and "Medicare is a mess and will only get worse" are added in. When asked specifically how the Affordable Care Act will impact their practice, 49% of all respondents — those optimistic about the future of healthcare as well as the pessimists — said the ACA will have a negative impact.”
 
My guess is, with the younger generation of doctors experiencing this degree of pessimism, we're headed for widespread physician unhappiness, if not burnout!
 
In a couple of posts, I'll explore what it will take to forestall this professional collapse, beginning today with insights into what happens to our brains when we're nearing burnout.
 


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