Connect to the conversation around mental health: A spotlight on physician burnout

For more than 2 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has put emphasis on an issue that has long affected healthcare workers and physicians — burnout. Every year, Medscape surveys thousands of member physicians to gain critical insight into how burnout is affecting them in their practice through the Physician Burnout Report, and the results are eye-opening.

This year’s report showed that 47% of physicians feel burned out, compared with 42% the year before. Burnout affected both men and women, but women reported higher levels, at 56% compared with 41% for men. And the numbers are only getting higher. In 2020, 36% of men and 51% of women reported burnout.

We spoke to Dr. Hansa Bhargava, Medscape Education’s chief medical officer, and Leslie Kane, MA, senior director of Medscape Business of Medicine, to discuss their insights into the Burnout Report, and physician burnout in general — starting with how COVID-19 has brought this issue into the spotlight.

“Although mental health issues were on the rise before the pandemic, social isolation, public health misinformation, and the challenge of healthcare delivery during this time certainly catalyzed the issue,” explains Dr Bhargava. “Now, across industries, burnout is an issue but is an acute crisis amongst the healthcare team, and they are suffering.”

These issues are reflected in the Burnout Report, which showed that clinicians across specialties are battling burnout. Emergency medicine and critical care physicians had the highest levels, with 60% and 56%, respectively, reporting burnout.

Ms Kane added that multiple factors affecting individuals at the same time increase the impact. “When you have an increased number of factors affecting you simultaneously, people have reduced resilience and have less ability to deal with each factor individually. Prior to COVID-19, burnout was an issue, but once the stressors piled on during the pandemic, physicians and other healthcare workers found themselves less able to escape from the difficult situations affecting them.”

Some of the factors that physicians reported as contributing to their burnout include too many bureaucratic tasks; lack of respect from colleagues, employers, and staff; and too many hours at work.

But not all physicians are feeling the pinch.

Ms Kane notes, “Interestingly, there were a number of physicians who felt less burnout during COVID-19! They were not going to their office, not seeing patients — certainly seeing fewer patients — and in some cases, felt less rushed and pressured than they did when working through extremely busy days.”

So, what role can healthcare institutions play in assisting in the wellbeing of their clinicians?

“The most important next step we can all take is finding ways to help clinicians manage and avoid burnout, and preserve their mental health. Wellness programs are certainly a first step, but hospitals and health systems leadership must step up [and] acknowledge the crisis and give clinicians tangible action plans that can make a difference, operationally,” said Dr Bhargava. “We are facing a potential mass exodus of clinicians in the next 5 years, and healthcare will potentially suffer as well as the care to patients.”

Additionally, encouraging physicians to seek help and removing stigma from that is key. There is a lot of work to be done, but there is hope. Awareness is the first step to action. 

Ms Kane agrees. “Healthcare organizations definitely need to consider physician and healthcare worker turnover that arises from burnout. Some medical centers have started peer-to-peer support groups, where physicians can meet and discuss their feelings and get support, without members of administration present.”

Medscape Education focuses on providing clinician and patient education and resources to support mental health. Recently, Medscape launched Building Bridges Between Mental Health and Wellness, a one-stop learning destination for clinicians to manage the mental health of themselves and their patients. You can learn more at

This post has been syndicated from a third-party source. View the original article here.

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