Physician burnout is a major concern right now to the healthcare industry, and a recent study dives deeper into the relationship of physician health and happiness and looks at a number of other factors, including race and ethnicity.

Physician burnout is typically defined as “a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment.” This year 51% of surveyed physicians report being burned out, up from 40% in 2013. This supports the findings of the 2016 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives, which reported 54% of surveyed physicians rate their morale as somewhat or very negative with almost 50% often or always feeling burned out, as previously reported byPNN.

The survey, by Medscape, of more than 14,000 physicians from over 30 specialties offered respondents more than one answer when identifying their race or ethnicity; 5% chose more than one. The majority of physicians (68.6%) reported that they are white/Caucasian. The next most prevalent racial group was Asian (19.1%), although ethnicities within this group varied, with Asian Indians being the most represented (8.3%). Only 5.2% of physicians reported as Hispanic/Latino and 3.6% as black/African-American.

The survey uncovered some association between ethnicity and burnout, with physicians who identify as Chinese reporting the highest rates of burnout at 56% and Asian Indian reporting the lowest at 46%. But all across the board roughly half of all ethnicities reported burnout: 52% of white/Caucasian physicians, 51% of Hispanic/Latino and 48% of black/African-American. 

The report also shows higher burnout among female physicians (55%) compared with their male peers (45%). However, this number has increased for both parties since 2013 when 45% of women reported burnout and only 37% of men.  

The biggest cause of burnout was identified as spending time on bureaucratic tasks and too many hours at work. Also rating high were feeling like “a cog in a wheel” and electronic health records (EHRs).

The study asked respondents to rate the severity of their burnout on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 equals "It does not interfere with my life" and 7 equals "It is so severe that I am thinking of leaving medicine altogether." The physicians reporting burnout were further broken down by specialty; urologists had the highest average severity rating (4.6), followed by oncologists (4.5) and pathologists and cardiologists (both at 4.4). When compared with last year's findings, burnout severity remained fairly flat or declined for the majority of specialties. 

This report shows a pronounced association between burnout and physicians' happiness at work and outside of work, according to Medscape. On average, 59% of physicians with no burnout claimed to be very or extremely happy at work, compared with a dismal 7% of their burned-out peers, more than an eightfold difference. This relationship continued when they left work, with nearly three quarters (74%) of non-burned-out versus 48% of burned-out physicians reporting being very or extremely happy outside the workplace.




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