Ophthalmologists fare relatively well in survey of physician burnout, work/life balance

August 22, 2012
Ophthalmology Times Staff Reports

Compared to an average of all physicians, ophthalmologists fared slightly better in a survey of physician burnout.

Rochester, MN-Ophthalmology fared relatively well in a national survey of burnout and professional/personal life balance among physicians, reporting a level of burnout lower than the mean of those surveyed and a level of satisfaction with professional/personal life balance higher than the mean of those surveyed.

Tait D. Shanafelt, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, and colleagues conducted a national study of physicians from all specialty disciplines using the American Medical Association physician master file and a sample of working U.S. adults from the general population for comparison. The survey included 7,288 doctors, and with a 26.7% participation rate, researchers found that 45.8% reported at least one symptom of burnout, according to a report of the results published online first by the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In all, 43.4% of ophthalmologists reported feeling burned out. The mean for all physicians (including ophthalmologists) was 45.9%.

Physicians practicing in the fields of emergency medicine, general internal medicine, neurology, and family medicine reported the highest rates of burnout, whereas those in the fields of pathology, dermatology, general pediatrics, and preventive medicine/occupational medicine/environmental medicine reported the lowest rates.

Compared with 3,442 working U.S. adults, doctors were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (37.9% versus 27.8%), researchers found.

“After adjusting for hours worked per week, higher levels of education and professional degrees seem to reduce the risk for burnout in fields outside of medicine, whereas a degree in medicine (MD or DO) increases the risk,” they concluded, adding that burnout seems to be rooted in the environment and care delivery system rather than in the affected individuals.

In addition, compared with working U.S. adults, doctors were more likely to be dissatisfied with their professional/personal life balance (40.2% versus 23.2%), the study found.

Study participants practicing in the fields of dermatology, general pediatrics, and preventive medicine/occupational health/environmental medicine reported the highest rates of professional/personal life balance, whereas those in general surgery, general surgery subspecialties, and obstetrics/gynecology had the lowest rates.

More than 50% of ophthalmologists (56.8%) reported satisfaction with their professional/personal life balance. As a whole (including ophthalmologists), 48.5% of physicians reported satisfaction with their professional/personal life balance.

For more articles in this issue of Ophthalmology Times eReport, click here.


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