- A study conducted by Mayo Clinic researchers in conjunction with the American Medical Association (AMA) shows burnout is worse in physicians today than three years ago.
- The Mayo Clinic study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, compared survey data from 2011, when 45% of doctors met burnout criteria, to data from 2014 when 54% of doctors had at least one burnout symptom. The highest rates of burnout occur in the "front lines," such as family medicine, emergency medicine and general internal medicine.
- A recent JAMA study shows depression is much more prevalent among doctors in training than the general population. Almost 33% of early-career doctors screened positive for depression compared to 2013 data from the National Institute of Mental Health that found 6.7% of all U.S. adults had, at least, one major depressive episode in the previous year.
The results of the two studies, say Dr. Thomas Schwenck, Dean of the University of Nevada Medical School, and author of an editorial accompanying the JAMA study, that something is wrong with the medical training system. "The profession purportedly recognizes the importance of health and wellness, but the value system of the current training environment makes clear to residents the unacceptability of staying home when ill, of asking for coverage when a child or parent is in need, and in expressing vulnerability in the face of overwhelming emotional and physical demands."
Two professors at Penn State College of Medicine wrote an article in JAMA stating stressed medical students depict their supervisors as monsters in a class they teach called "Comics in Medicine." Dr. Michael Green and Daniel R. George, authors of the article wrote, "In their attempts to make meaning of medical training through images and words, students imagined the workplace as dank dungeons...represented supervising physicians as fiendish, foul-mouthed monsters; and depicted themselves as sleep-deprived zombies walking through barren post-apocalyptic landscapes."
Besides the regular pressures of practicing medicine, Schwenck said in his editorial that shorter hospital stays require protocol-driven procedural care, with "little opportunity for thinking and learning." In addition, additional pressure comes from online doctor reviews, too much time on computers doing secretarial work and very little time at the bedside. His suggested solutions include to provide better mental healthcare to depressed physicians and those in training, limit trainee's exposure to the training environment and consider a fundamental change to the medical training system.