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Burned Out? Be Glad You’re Not An ED Doctor

August 22, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Emergency Radiology, Practice Management
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Radiologists tend to be a little more burned out than the average physician, but they’re generally pretty happy with the balance between the work and personal parts of their lives.

So says a new study of U.S. physicians, which found an “alarming level” of burnout.

The study, based on a survey conducted in December 2010, was published online Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers invited 27,276 doctors to participate, and 7,288 (26.7 percent) cooperated. The survey used the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a 22-item questionnaire that the study described as “the gold standard tool for measuring burnout.”

It turned out that 45;8 percent of the doctors indicated at least one symptom of burnout. Specifically:

  • 37.9 percent of U.S. physicians reported high emotional exhaustion;
  • 29.4 percent reported high depersonalization (cynicism);
  • 12.4 percent reported a low sense of personal accomplishment.

Breaking the results down according to specialty, the study found, not surprisingly, that “specialties at the front line of care access (emergency medicine, general internal medicine, and family medicine) are at greatest risk.” It elaborated:

Emergency medicine, general internal medicine, neurology, and family medicine had the highest rates of burnout, whereas pathology, dermatology, general pediatrics, and preventive medicine (including occupational health and environmental medicine) had the lowest rates.

The survey also asked the doctors whether their jobs left them enough time for personal and family pursuits. “Physicians practicing dermatology, general pediatrics, and preventive medicine (including occupational health and environmental medicine) had the highest rated satisfaction with work-life balance,” the study said, “whereas physicians practicing general surgery, general surgery subspecialties, and obstetrics/gynecology had the lowest rates.”

Lead author Tait Shanafelt, MD, a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told Bloomberg News:

Right at a time when we are trying to provide care to people who are uninsured and projecting workforce shortages, we are seeing this burnout rate creep in, which may cause physicians to reduce workloads and consider early retirement.

The study concluded that something needs to be done. “Unfortunately,” it said, “little evidence exists about how to address this problem.”

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A small study finds big long-term effects from total body irradiation of cancer patients before age 3. See the worrisome details on our Facebook page.

Related seminar: Emergency Radiology

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