Physician Burnout and Career Fatigue Part 1: The Growth of Physician Workload and Workplace Violence in Healthcare

August 7, 2023

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By James Tekippe, CFA – VMG Health, and Courtney Stokes, JD, MHSA – Kathleen L. DeBruhl & Associates, LLC

The following article was published in the American Bar Association Health Law Section’s eSource.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of career fatigue was already a growing concern for physicians and healthcare systems. In 2018, a survey conducted by The Physicians Foundation reported that 31% of physicians indicated they often have feelings of burnout. Fast forward a few years into the pandemic, and in the 2022 edition of this survey, this number has jumped to 62% of respondents indicating that they often have feelings of burnout. This growth in burnout is a major concern as physician burnout negatively impacts physicians’ well-being, decreases the quality of care physicians provide, and contributes to older physicians retiring earlier than anticipated and younger physicians leaving the field altogether. While many of the reasons for these results were present before COVID-19, the pandemic has brought this discussion into new context and importance.

This is the first in a three-part series on physician career fatigue and mental health issues. This article will examine four of the major causes of career fatigue for physicians: administrative burdens, including those created by the advent of electronic health records (EHRs), the increase in violence in the healthcare setting, the continued industry-wide staffing shortages, and the persisting stigma associated with seeking treatment for a mental health condition or substance use disorder. While there are no simple answers or quick fixes for these issues, this article will include a discussion of potential solutions that various stakeholders around the country are adopting in an attempt to positively address physician career fatigue and burnout.

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