A new Medscape survey of more than 15,000 U.S. physicians in more than 29 specialties found that 44 percent of respondents were burned out and 15 percent feel depressed.
Physician burnout includes feelings of exhaustion, lack of personal accomplishment and a disinterest with the profession. High expectations for physicians, the burden of electronic health records (EHRs) and long work hours are common contributors.
Roughly 600 of the respondents work in radiology. According to survey results, 45 percent of radiologists feel burned out—which was consistent with last year's statistics. Additionally, 45 percent of radiologists reported they are more likely to work long hours (51 hours or more per week).
To cope with burnout, 48 percent of physicians said they exercise, followed by talking with family members or close friends (43 percent), isolation (41 percent), sleeping (39 percent), and drinking alcohol (23 percent). Additionally, male physicians were more likely to exercise while females were more likely to talk with friends and family.
“Women are more likely to admit to psychological problems and seek help, and thus may be more likely to acknowledge burnout than their male counterparts,” Carol Bernstein, MD, a psychiatrist at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City, said in the report. “Second, women generally acknowledge more challenges with work-life balance than do men. Childcare and family responsibilities are disproportionately assumed by women, despite increasing numbers of men who are more involved than in previous generations.”
Almost half of physicians who reported feelings of depression said it does not impact patient care. However, almost a quarter of physicians who feel depressed said they may be less careful about taking patient notes and 14 percent said they make errors they normally don’t make. Additionally, more than two- thirds of physicians with feelings of depression said their depression affects their workplace behavior.
Fourteen percent of physicians said they have had thoughts of suicide but have not attempted such actions, and more than half of physicians who have had thoughts of suicide told someone about them.
Only 26 percent of radiologists reported they are likely to seek professional psychological help, according to the study.
Half of all physicians said they have not gotten help because “symptoms are not severe enough” and 47 percent said they “can deal with it without help from a professional." Most notably, however, 64 percent of all physicians have not sought help for their burnout or depression.
“Medical training teachers us to ‘suck it up’, so help-seeking is not a well-honed skill among doctors,” Pamela Wible, MD, a family physician and a leading voice in combating the physician suicide epidemic, said in the report. “Because the majority of doctors are overworked, exhausted, and discontent, they’ve normalized their misery and pretend that it’s not as bad as it seems.”