Burnout among American surgeons, doctors increased by 54 percent: Mayo Clinic

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Dec 03, 2015 05:30 AM EST

Burnout among US surgeons and doctors is increasing and according to reports more than half of American doctors have experienced it, a Mayo Clinic research revealed.

The number of US doctors who have experienced burnout or one of its symptoms have increased by 10 percent in 3 years. This means that over 54 percent of clinicians are affected in 2014 compared to only about 46 percent of doctors in 2011. The results and comparisons of the survey were published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The report showed that work satisfaction and work-life balance for physicians have decreased and that they are doubly more likely to experience burnout than any other US worker. Lead researcher Dr. Tait Shanafelt of Mayo Clinic says that it is "getting worse."

To explain what a burnout is, Dr. Shanafelt said: "Burnout manifests as emotional exhaustion, loss of meaning in work, and feelings of ineffectiveness."

Their research showed that doctors in almost all kinds of field are not immune to burnouts and this could lead to disarray in personal life, their work life and the quality of their service.

For the research, more than 35,000 physicians took part in a 2014 survey. Dr. Shanafelt and colleagues compared the results of nearly 7,000 doctors who answered the questionnaires to the 2011 survey. The survey includes depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation in the past year, burnout rates, and work-life balance.

According to Reuters, doctors in family medicine, emergency medicine, radiology, rehabilitation and urology have the highest burnout rates. Doctors who work in general surgery, psychiatry, general pediatrics, pathology, internal medicine, dermatology, and orthopedic surgery also saw increased burnout rates in a couple of years into 2014.

The survey also found that almost 50 percent of the physicians felt emotional exhaustion and around 15 percent felt devalued or having low levels of personal accomplishment at work.

An expert told the outlet that this condition needs to be given attention and remedy it. Healthcare systems should not rely on self-help solutions but also account for looking our for work environments including lack of control, time pressures, the communication between leaders and doctors.

"American medicine is at a tipping point," Dr. Shanafelt told Medscape. "If a research study identified a system-based problem that potentially decreased patient safety for 50 percent of medical encounters, we would swiftly move to address the problem. That is precisely the circumstance we are in, and we need an appropriate system level response."

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