Burnout – Physicians

From The Lancet 13 July 2019.

Hui Wang, a 32-year-old Chinese ophthalmologist, experienced sudden cardiac death on June 30, after working with fever for 6 days in Beijing. Hui was the father of a 1-year-old girl, and married to a doctor, who donated Hui’s corneas to two patients after his death…

According to a viewpoint published in the Chinese Medical Journal, reports on sudden deaths among Chinese physicians sharply escalated from 2008 to 2015, and most of the deaths, resulting from heavy work load, were male surgeons and anaesthesiologists in tertiary hospitals in large cities…

Physician burnout, defined as a work-related syndrome involving emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment, is not only a serious concern in China but also has reached global epidemic levels. Evidence shows that burnout affects more than half of practising physicians in the USA and is rising…

Physician burnout, defined as a work-related syndrome involving emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment, is not only a serious concern in China but also has reached global epidemic levels…

Evidence shows that burnout affects more than half of practising physicians in the USA and is rising. The 2018 Survey of America’s Physicians Practice Patterns and Perspectives reported that 78% of physicians had burnout, an increase of 4% since 2016. Furthermore, 80% of doctors in a British Medical Association 2019 survey were at high or very high risk of burnout, with junior doctors most at risk, followed by general practitioner partners. Increasingly, physician burnout has been recognised as a public health crisis in many high-income countries because it not only affects physicians’ personal lives and work satisfaction but also creates severe pressure on the whole health-care system—particularly threatening patients’ care and safety.

The 11th Revision of ICD (ICD-11) in May, 2019, provided a more detailed definition of burnout, characterising it as a syndrome of three dimensions—feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of cynicism or negativism about one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy…

Addressing physician burnout on an individual level will not be enough, and meaningful steps to address the crisis and its fundamental causes must be taken at systemic and institutional levels with concerted efforts from all relevant stakeholders. Tackling physician burnout requires placing the problem within different contexts of workplace culture, specialties, and gender. Physician wellbeing has long been under-recognised in LMICs, and physicians’ sudden death and suicide due to overwork—the consequences of extreme burnout—have not been uncommon in many Asian countries. With rapid development of medical sciences, it is time to use medical advances to benefit the health and wellbeing of all people, including physicians themselves…

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