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Recent Study finds many Medical Doctors are Burnt Out.

Aug 23rd, 2012
Staff Writer

Exhausted MD || Photo credit: iStock PhotoOccupation in the medical field is a notoriously stressful vocation. Even after years of schooling and dedication, nothing can completely prepare a physician for the daily toll of a demanding position: helping the sick get healthy and the healthy not get sick. Long hours, a fast pace and dramatic human encounters all can contribute to an unhealthy medical condition: burnout.

A new study led by researcher Tait Shanafelt, MD, from the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Internal Medicine, investigated the prevalence of doctor burnout in the United States. Published Monday with the JAMA Network’s Archives of Internal Medicine, the team conducted what they believe to be the first national study that “evaluated rates of burnout among US physicians,” according to the article.

The scientists surveyed over 7,000 practicing physicians using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a decade-old tool for burnout assessment. It measures the emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment of professionals. A sample of 3,400 adults working in other fields were also surveyed using the same scale for comparison.

What Dr. Shanafelt and colleagues found was that about 37.9% of physicians reported to have symptoms of burnout, with 40.2% complaining of work-life imbalance. “Compared with high school graduates, individuals with an MD or DO degree were at increased risk for burnout,” the study reported.

The investigators concluded that burnout is more common among physicians than among other US workers, characterized by a “loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment.” And so the medical profession presents a difficult pill to swallow. Doctors gifted with the knowledge to heal are themselves suffering. But there is hope. A positive correlation was noticed between hours worked and the severity of burnout, suggesting that doctors, like other workers, benefit from time off. And who would argue that they are any less deserving of a break from their noble position.