Study Finds U.S. Physician Burnout Increased During Pandemic

A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings has found that the burnout rate among physicians is at an all time high following the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from 2020, 2017, 2014, and 2011, the researchers compared the frequency of burnout and satisfaction with work-life integration among physicians at the end of 2021. The researchers found that up until 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, the overall rate of work-induced burnout among physicians had been declining for six years. 21 months following the start of 2020, the physician burnout rate significantly increased to a level that was higher than that previously seen. The total rate of burnout among American physicians increased from 38.2% to 62.8% in 2021.

The study was conducted between December 9, 2021, and January 24, 2022 and surveyed a multitude of physicians based on Burnout, WLI, depression, and professional fulfillment using standard practices. A number of findings were made by the researchers. They discovered that many of the causes of physician burnout were made during the pandemic.  According to research, 1 in 5 physicians want to quit their current practice in the next two years as a result of the stress brought on by COVID-19. The prevalence of burnout among U.S. physicians amounted to 62.8 percent in 2021. A significant contrast to 2020’s 38.2 percent, 2017’s 43.9 percent, 2014’s 54.4 percent and 2011’s 45.5 percent. 

Although occupational burnout among physicians is frequently higher on average when compared to other U.S. workforce occupations, the researchers contend that the pandemic has certainly had an impact. As a result of burnout, physicians have noted feelings of increased cynicism, disillusionment, and career disengagement. “While the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic are hopefully behind us, there is an urgent need to attend to physicians who put everything into our nation’s response to COVID-19, too often at the expense of their own wellbeing,” stated Dr. Jack Resneck Jr. AMA President, following the publication of the study.

In order to address these issues physicians face, the AMA has released the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians which details 5 key objectives. These include supporting telehealth, reforming Medicare payment,m stopping scope creep, fixing prior authorization burdens, and reducing physician burnout. By achieving these objectives, AMA hopes to eradicate the burdens that impede patient care.