Docs complain of burnout, consider leaving profession: Canadian study
More than two-thirds of doctors have complained of feeling burnout with over 20% considering leaving the medical profession due to the stress brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new Canadian study.
The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, found that “burnout was prevalent among 68% of physicians and noted over 20% of surveyed physicians were considering quitting the profession, or had already quit a position”, according to the University of British Columbia (UBC). “During the Covid-19 pandemic, although most of our respondents feel a sense of personal accomplishment, burnout and emotional exhaustion are high,” the study said.
The study’s lead researcher Dr Nadia Khan, professor of general internal medicine at UBC, said, “I think that this issue is not unique to just these two hospitals. It is widespread. I would say global. It’s also not just amongst physicians but likely affecting other healthcare workers.”
She also noted that the coronavirus crisis had increased physician burnout, a phenomenon that was rising even before the pandemic struck.
The study was based on survey responses from 302 internal medicine physicians who worked for Vancouver General Hospital and St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia between August and October 2020.
Burnout was defined as “an occupational syndrome characterised by emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation - which is a lack of care about the work. It also affects workers’ sense of personal accomplishment”.
Women and younger doctors were more likely to feel the impact, as burnout “was prevalent among 71% of women compared to 64% of men”. It was also found to be highest, at 74%, among younger physicians, aged between 36 and 50. Meanwhile, visible minority physicians had 1.8 times higher odds of feeling low personal accomplishment in comparison to white respondents.
Among other survey findings, 63% of respondents reported emotional exhaustion, 39% reported a lack of care towards the job, or depersonalisation, and 22% reported feeling low personal accomplishment.
The study pointed out the “prevalence of burnout and its components in the current study are generally higher than those reported prior to the pandemic”.
A systematic review of 176 studies from 2018 reported a prevalence of overall burnout of 48.7%, while a recent meta-analysis of 22,778 medical and surgical residents identified a 51% aggregate prevalence prior to the pandemic.
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