Physician Stress and Burnout

Written by on May 1, 2015 in Practice tips - No comments

Results Alarming

Physician stress and burnout is prevalent and increasing.

Some would say it has grown to the point of epidemic, even a threat to public health. Based on continued concern for physicians and witnessing the most significant changes in healthcare’s history, we embarked again to measure physician stress and burnout with our research partners, Cejka Search. There is an urgent need for healthcare organizations to recognize and address this crisis; initiatives are needed for physicians to feel understood and supported by their leadership and to develop greater well-being.

StressedDocWEBWe see the organizations we support struggling to combat this problem, so we asked the national physician population the same questions as our 2011 study to compare progress on this critical issue. The results revealed the progress, prevalence and effects of physician stress and burnout. Our goal was to not only understand the nature of the problem, but also to learn whether or not organizations have been successful in providing solutions to correct the problem.

The results are alarming.

The 2015 study of 2,005 physicians clearly showed not only is it prevalent, but stress and burnout is increasing. Almost 66% of the over 2000 respondents indicated more stress and burnout than in the 2011 study. 88% of all respondents identified themselves as moderately to severely stressed and 46% specified severe stress and burnout.


The situation has gotten significantly worse. You can watch me discuss the results of the survey in a brief 5 minute overview at Or see the complete presentation, Managing Disruptive Behaviors to Improve Patient Care at MMIC Group’s OnDemand webinars. The complete survey results with more details is also available for download at 2015 Physician Stress and Burnout Survey Report.

Are organizations helping?

When asked if their organizations did anything to help them deal more effectively with stress and burnout only 18.5% said yes. 52.2% said there were wellness initiatives, but it was difficult to find time to use them.

The top preferences for assistance were:

  • More time off or self-directed time 62%
  • More ancillary support, such as aides to deal with paperwork and charting 61%
  • Better understanding of the challenges and support by administration 47%

DealingStressWEBAt the same time of this escalating stress and burnout, the baby-boomer generation is retiring, physicians are leaving the practice at increasing rates and millennials are questioning the benefits of entering the profession – all at a time when highly educated technical labor is predicted to be shrinking. This can seem nearly insurmountable to healthcare organizations also facing operational and technical pressures, increasing expenses and with limited experience in building sustainable, healthy work environments.

More needs to be done – and soon.

Physicians are a precious resource and they are suffering. To make matters worse, when physicians suffer, the downstream effects on patient safety and satisfaction, risk management, staff retention and recruiting are immense.

CausesOfStressWEBHealthier and happier physicians are critical in helping healthcare organizations to meet the challenges ahead. These survey results can help your organization better understand and address stress and burnout in your physician population.

Individual physicians, but also teams, departments and entire organizations need to address the effects and solutions for stress and burnout. At VITAL WorkLife, we work every day with physicians presenting behavioral and performance issues, suffering from depression, lacking engagement or dealing with problems in their personal lives. We stand ready to help organizations develop the right solutions to both prevent and ameliorate stress and burnout, so your organization can, in turn, stay healthy and achieve your goals.

By Mitchell Best

VITAL WorkLife, Inc.™ is a national behavioral health consulting organization headquartered in Minneapolis providing support to people facing life’s challenges, while also assisting organizations in improving workplace productivity. We have deep experience in healthcare, especially assisting physicians and providers in dealing with the challenges facing their profession. This approach of helping employees and their families, while also guiding organizations, builds healthy, sustainable behaviors. For over 30 years, we have offered industry leading Employee Assistance Programs, specialized support, training and consulting for a wide variety of industries.

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