PSYCHIATRIC VIEWPOINTS ON EVERYDAY NEWS
I interrupt the recent series of this column on the Queen’s death not only out of respect for the day of the funeral, but because of an agonizing communication about our own health.
Friday, Securitiesthe American Psychiatric Association (APA) daily news briefing summarized a very concerning report on the level of physician burnout in 2021. Top of the story was an article reporting that nearly two-thirds of responding physicians were running out in 2021, almost doubling from the previous year.1
All specialties except urology saw a worrying increase, especially emergency medicine, family medicine, general pediatrics and female physicians in general.
As for psychiatrists, I haven’t found any specific data yet, other than that we were in the increasing burnout group. This implies that psychiatry has yet to realize the potential and promise of combating burnout in other specialties.2
I guess these researchers plan to repeat the next survey at its usual 3 year interval which started in 2011. It would be easy to predict that the results will improve if the pandemic continues to abate, unless there is have other contributing factors like our country division.
On the bright side, the Biden administration has called for administrative improvements in health care and is providing funds to do so. Otherwise, we will end up with all the negative repercussions identified by the study: reduced quality of care; medical errors, clinician turnover and increased costs. Learned helplessness can also lull us into complacency as burnout has become our new normal.
The main obstacle remains those corporate controlled medical systems that block the healing potential of clinicians. The other focus on wellness and what we as doctors can do for ourselves is good, but when it comes to burnout, it has at best prevented even worse outcomes. As for the common call for resilience, it can backfire when too much resilience results in staying in an untenable system.
What each of us can easily do, and which has practical implications, is to monitor our own degree of insidious burnout through one of the many survey tools or feedback from loved ones. Then we can make better decisions in the workplace with all the options we have.
While other countries also have worrying physician burnout rates, ours is the worst and we are the only one without a national single-payer system.2
Doctor Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specializes in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the unique designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout professional, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. for a better world. He sits on the editorial board of Psychiatric Times™.
1. Shanafelt TD, West CP, Dyrbye LN, et al. Evolution of burnout and satisfaction with work-life integration among physicians during the first 2 years of the COVID-10 pandemic. Mayo ClinProc. 2022;97(3):491-506.
2. Lobo Prabhu S, Summers R, Moffic HS, eds. Combating Physician Burnout: A Guide for Psychiatrists. American Psychiatric Edition; 2019.