European Union of Private Hospitals

Medscape publication on the risk of burnout among doctors in the USA

Our view

We have read and analysed this North American study on the risk of burn-out among medical doctors. This risk has increased since the COVID_19 crisis and has become a worrying reality for all professionals involved. The quality of care depends on everyone’s involvement, including quality of life at work. Under the pressure of a purely economic regulation of health systems and increased expectations by the patients being cared for, a negative mental burden is being exerted on all the actors concerned. It would be interesting to know by means of equivalent surveys the impact within the EU27, but it is essential to remember that any management measure must include prevention, detection of risks and support for vulnerable situations linked to the practice of care. Our last workshop on HUMAN VALUE included this necessary dimension, which goes beyond figures to focus on caregivers.

The Report

The recent publication “Medscape* USA” on the prevalence of burnout among North American doctors is edifying.  Stress, anxiety, and aggressiveness are among the signs reported, with 42% of practitioners being under pressure and reporting burn-out. The proportions vary according to speciality and range from 26% among public health specialists to a high of 60% among emergency physicians, the latter figure having risen sharply for this professional category. Women are more affected than men, respectively 56% and 41%, with a high risk of their professional career being called into question. The pressure elements reported relate more to administrative tasks than to direct relations with patients, and the lack of space for relaxation outside of professional life is also highlighted. However, there is no specific profile that is more susceptible to the risk of burn-out, and in particular no generational risk was identified. Doctors working in health services and care centres are the most affected. More worryingly, 54% of practitioners confirm that professional pressure has a deleterious effect on the balance of their private life but also on the quality of their commitment. The elements most frequently mentioned are loss of motivation, attention deficit, risk of relational indifference or even of passing on the pressure felt to their loved ones. Physical exercise is the most frequently mentioned means of relieving stress. A fourth reported genuine depression with repercussions on their relationship with patients, to the point that 14% of them expressed it during consultations! This pressure has increased since COVID. It remains important for colleagues to manage these negative situations, which expose them to the risk of relational isolation, knowing that they share with nurses this high exposure to the risk of burnout. More than half have or would like to have support or coaching to manage work-related stress. Family life and the quality of extra-professional relationships are the two elements of stability that are emphasised. Recognition by peers, support from management and the bonding of teams were also reported as elements of wellbeing at work.

*MEDSCAPE Report Monday 27 March 2023 (survey conducted in the summer of 2021 on a sample of over 13,000 physicians in the USA).