Physician Burnout: A Public Health Crisis
CHRISTINE GARVER-APGAR, Ph.D., Research Director
What is burnout? Burnout is a work-related syndrome involving emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of reduce personal accomplishment and effectiveness. It often arises from chronic stress associated with emotionally intense work demands, particularly when the resources to address those demands are inadequate. Rates of burnout are markedly higher among physicians than people in other careers, even after adjusting for work hours and other factors. In fact, recent national studies in the U.S. of both physicians-in-training and practicing physicians find rates of burnout symptoms reaching epidemic proportions – approaching or exceeding 50%.
Why is it important? Burnout matters because it is associated with negative consequences for patient care (e.g. increased medical errors and malpractice suits), the physician workforce and healthcare system costs (e.g. reduced productivity and increased turnover), and for physicians’ own care and safety (e.g. increased risk of substance abuse and suicidal ideation).