Burnout. Getting Better or Worse?

Paddy Barrett, MD

Written by Paddy Barrett, MD

Q: An article circulating around our clinic on the subject of physician burnout and well-being ruffled a few feathers. One of our more - let’s say, “senior” surgeons - proudly stated, “In my day, doctors didn’t burnout.”

His claim sparked a heated conversation among several of our millennial docs. I must admit, practicing medicine without EHR and endless metrics sure does sound appealing. I guess the real question should be: Is burnout getting better or worse?

A: Glad these issues are getting the attention they deserve, even if there is some healthy disagreement. Although studies on physician burnout are relatively new, we have sufficient information over the last five years to see some interesting, and indeed worrisome, trends. Burnout among physicians does seem to be getting worse with corresponding reductions in how satisfied we are with our work/life balance. What you might find most interesting is that mean hours worked by physicians haven’t changed over the past five years, so the difference would appear not to be in how much we work, but more likely in how we work. So what can we do differently?

Here’s a tip you can share with your colleagues:

Let us know what you think.