Physician burnout is real. Here’s how to fix it.

by Diane Shannon, M.D.

When I speak to groups or write about physician burnout, I often hear back from clinicians who are thankful someone is validating their experiences. As one young physician wrote me:

Her email reflects the sentiment of too many physicians today who feel their organizational leaders simply do not care about the inefficiencies and systemic issues that are a major cause of the widespread burnout among clinicians.

Indeed, a new athenahealth survey of more than 1,000 practicing physicians found that physicians who gave low marks to the long-term leadership abilities of their administrators were more likely to report low confidence in their ability to do their job well and more likely to exhibit low levels of engagement — as defined by their willingness to go above and beyond in their jobs and to recommend and stay with their organizations.

Those findings confirm what I’ve heard anecdotally from doctors in the field. I recently interviewed a radiologist based in the busy emergency department of an academic hospital. He relayed his observation that new radiologists in the practice last no longer than three years before burning out and leaving.

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