Managing Your Practice

Study: Burnout Risk High for Hospitalists, Other “Front-Line” Physicians


An author of new research that shows physicians are more likely to be burned out by work than other professions says the findings underscore the need for hospitalists to find a balance between their professional and personal lives.

The Archives of Internal Medicine report, "Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance Among US Physicians Relative to the General U.S. Population," found that physicians were more likely than "working U.S. adults" to exhibit at least one symptom of burnout (37.9% vs. 27.8%, P<0.01). Physicians also were more likely to be dissatisfied with their work-life balance (40.2% vs. 23.2%, P<0.01), according to the data.

"It's a balancing act," says Colin West, MD, PhD, FACP, of the Departments of Internal Medicine and Health Sciences Research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "Every physician is a little bit different. Every person is a little bit different. If everyone is able to exert some control … and do what's meaningful to them, that gives them the best shot to balance."

Of specific importance for hospitalists, the research found that "front-line specialties" (including internal medicine, general medicine, and emergency medicine) exhibited the highest risk factor for burnout. Dr. West says more research would be required to determine how at risk hospitalists are, but given their position in the healthcare spectrum, he suspects they are among those at highest risk. He believes that the healthcare system as a whole needs to address the burnout issue, as repercussions can include problematic alcohol use, broken relationships, and suicidal ideation.

"The best group is that which strikes a balance," Dr. West says. "It's probably because [those physicians are not] feeling like they're dropping a ball. If you pick work over home, or home over work, then, basically, one is left behind."

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