- About 35% of physicians experiencing burnout said those feelings significantly increased in 2022, according to a small survey out Friday from the Medical Group Management Association and Jackson Physician Search.
- More than half of polled physicians said they’ve considered leaving their current employer for another, up from 46% last year.
- A separate MGMA poll also found 40% of medical practices surveyed had a physician resign or retire early due to burnout in the past year, according to the group.
Healthcare workers have dealt with widespread burnout challenges throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but for those in certain roles, feelings of stress and emotional exhaustion continue to rise even as COVID-19 cases have waned this year.
Burnout among physicians has risen in the latter part of the pandemic, resulting in higher turnover and retention challenges already seen among nurses and other healthcare workers, the MGMA report, which includes responses from about 400 administrators and physicians, and other recent studies have found.
A number of factors are contributing to the delayed wave of pandemic-driven burnout among physicians, like growing shortages of support staff and compensation models much different from nurses, Ron Holder, COO of MGMA said.
Unlike nurses and other staff, physicians aren’t incentivized for picking up extra shifts and putting in extra hours, he said.
Other challenges like heavy workloads and a constant emphasis on face time with patients have also made the job increasingly stressful. At the same time, a rise in clinician retirements and early-career physicians entering the workforce is leading to changing views around work-life balance within the occupation, Holder said.
“Money is still important, but making the job easier is more important,” he said.
The MGMA survey follows other recent reports analyzing the trajectory of burnout among physicians compared to other healthcare staff.
Researchers found nurses' emotional exhaustion levels rose during the first year of the pandemic, then again during the second year, in another study published in JAMA Network Open in September. Physicians, however, reported a decrease in emotional exhaustion during the first year, then a sharp rise during the second year, that study found.
An article published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings also found about 63% of physicians surveyed experienced at least one manifestation of burnout in 2021, up from 38% in 2020 and representing the highest amount in a decade of recurring survey findings.
Healthcare leaders have been slow to address this problem among physicians, the MGMA report found.
Nearly nine out of 10 healthcare leaders didn’t have a formal plan or strategy to reduce physician burnout, and just 19% reported having a formal, written retention plan, the survey found.
To mitigate burnout and turnover, medical groups should address streamlining clinical workflows, managing workload equity amid staffing shortages and improving communication between physicians and administrators to encourage quality and honest feedback, according to the report.
“Administrators and physicians recognize that solving the burnout crisis is complicated as many of its drivers are rooted in the business of healthcare,” Tony Stajduhar, president of Jackson Physician Search, said in a release.
“However, burnout mitigation should include creative recruitment and staffing strategies that bring additional talent into the organization to help defuse the impact of stress and administrative overload, and that allow for the pursuit of physician work-life balance,” he said.