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Burnout plagues physicians, says Mayo Clinic study

Almost everybody knows what it feels like to be burnt out of their job. Maybe you're in sales and the stress of meeting quotas has become too much. Or perhaps doing the same thing every day has become so mundane that you no longer get satisfaction out of it. Some of us accept it and others find other work, but in the end, our burnout doesn't do harm to people. But what about what it happens to doctors?

Doctors are held to a high standard of practice for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they hold people's lives in their hands every day. However, a recent study by the Mayo Clinic showed that many doctors experience burnout just like the rest of us -- and sometimes at an even higher rate.

The study tested doctors using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which measures emotional exhaustion, loss of sense of personal accomplishment, and cynicism and depersonalization. The results are shocking. At least one symptom of burnout can be found in more than 45 percent of doctors. Emotional exhaustion was the most common symptom. A shorter study also found that doctors have a significantly higher rate of burnout than the rest of the working population. While less than 25 percent of workers in the U.S. are not happy with their work-life balance, 40 percent of doctors were unsatisfied with their balance.

As the workload for doctors continues to build, patients may be uneasy about these numbers. While research points to a greater risk of errors when burnout is involved, a CBS News article didn't provide any more details. Hopefully hospitals will be able to come up with a way to ensure their doctors are performing operations and other duties at a standard that keeps patients safe.

In the meantime, New Mexico residents should know that there are ways to protect themselves. Asking questions, staying informed and keeping your care providers up to date on your medical history can all go a long way toward making sure you are treated properly.

Source: CBS News, "Almost half of doctors experience at least one symptom of burnout, study finds," Michelle Castillo, Aug. 21, 2012

  • Our firm understands the serious injuries that can result from doctor errors. For more legal information, visit our Hospital Negligence page.

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