Burnout is pushing docs to cut hours

One in five U.S. physicians is ready to cut their clinical hours as a result of burnout and growing dissatisfaction, according to new research.

The research was conducted by experts at the American Medical Association, Mayo Clinic and Stanford University.

Twenty percent of physicians reported it was likely or definite that they would reduce their clinical work hours in the next 12 months, while 27 percent said they would leave their current practice in the next 12 months.

Of those leaving their practice, about 2 percent said they were leaving the medical field altogether.

The biggest factors? Burnout, dissatisfaction with work-life balance and dissatisfaction with electronic health records.

“An energized, engaged, and resilient physician workforce is essential to achieving national health goals,” said Dr. David O. Barbe, American Medical Association president, in a news release. “Yet burnout is more common among physicians than other U.S. workers, and that gap is increasing as mounting obstacles to patients care contribute to emotional fatigue, depersonalization and loss of enthusiasm among physicians.”

The researchers concluded that if just 30 percent of physicians follow through with their intent to leave medicine in the next two years, the loss would be equivalent to eliminating the graduating classes of 19 medical schools in each of the next two years.

“Our findings have profound implications for health care organizations,” according to the study. “Replacing physicians is costly to institutions with one recent analysis suggesting costs of $800,000 or more per physician. In addition, turnover is disruptive to patients, staff, and organizational culture.”

The AMA has made burnout prevention a priority and is urging stakeholders to take notice.

A group of local physicians is tackling the issue, as well, by offering courses in mindful meditation.

“The AMA is urging Congress, hospitals, and health plans to recognize the coming crisis as an early warning sign of health system dysfunction,” Barbe said in the news release. “America’s physicians are the canary in the coal mine.”

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at marissa.harshman@columbian.com or 360-735-4546.

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