Training, Education Perpetuates Culture Conducive to Clinician Burnout

HealthDay News – A new report published in Medical Economics cites that clinician burnout may be an inevitable byproduct of a profession that has long rewarded self-denial, perseverance ,and performance in the face of enormous pressure and the “perpetuation of the unhealthy “myth of invulnerability”. Stress and burnout are increasingly prevalent among physicians, with serious personal and professional consequences.

Burnout rates among physicians are much higher than in the general population, with burnout most prevalent in physicians on the “front-line of care.” Physicians in the fields of emergency medicine, family medicine, and general internal medicine are at the highest risk. In a survey of more than 7000 physicians, nearly half reported at least 1 symptom of burnout.

According to the report, burnout can have serious personal and professional consequences for physicians if left unaddressed. Burnout can contribute to failure of relationships, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation. Burnout is also associated with disruptive behavior, increased medical errors, reduced patient satisfaction, and increased risk of malpractice, and also affects quality of care and patient outcomes. 

The education system has likely contributed to burnout by neglecting to focus on the development of social, leadership, and teamwork skills that physicians need. In addition, current changes in medicine resulting from health care reform have contributed to burnout.

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Physicians are citing too many bureaucratic tasks, too many hours at work, insufficient income, increasing computerization, and the impact of the Affordable Care Act as causes of burnout. Physician burnout can be evaluated by surveying staff anonymously and soliciting ideas for workplace improvement.

“Although the root causes of physician burnout are multifold and improvement will likely require intensive and long-term systemic and cultural change, physicians need help… organizations should consider anonymously surveying medical staff to evaluate physician burnout and soliciting ideas for workplace improvements leading to better work-life balance”.

“Spreading awareness, educating staff, and providing resources is an ideal place to begin,” according to the report.


Miller C. What is the price of physician stress and burnout? Medical Economics.  Published July 13, 2016. Accessed July 19, 2016.