Physician Burnout is at an All-Time High: How Recruiters Can Help

Posted by Doximity TF Team

doctor_burnout_smThere’s an epidemic in U.S. healthcare: physicians are stressed and burned out. According to The American Journal of Medicine, physician burnout increased from 45.5 percent to 54.4 percent between 2011 and 2014. 

Most of us who work in a high-pressure environment don’t make potentially life-altering decisions every day or worse—mistakes that can actually kill. Yet physicians, the last people we want to be stressed out, are experiencing burnout at unprecedented levels and the trends are only increasing in severity. 

Dr. Tait D. Shanafelt, the lead author of the study and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota says, “We’re not talking about a few individuals who are disorganized or not functioning well under pressure; we’re talking about one out of every two doctors who have already survived rigorous training. These numbers speak to bigger problems in the larger health care environment.”

In his book, “Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician,” Sandeep Jauhar, M.D. says doctors just don’t have the time to do their jobs. Primary care physicians (doctors who Jauhar believes are most unhappy) spend an average of eight to 10 minutes per patient. And it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. With less time for each patient—studies show that rushed doctors listen less—relying on expensive tests, which don’t necessarily lead to more accurate diagnoses.

In the premiere issue of the journal Burnout Research, which is dedicated to research on the topic of physician stress, Anthony Montgomery, an associate professor in the Psychology of Work and Organizations in the University of Macedonia in Greece, focused on physician burnout, and argues that the way doctors are trained may set them up for a career of frustrations and high-stress situations. And the consequences may be hurting the care they provide patients. While doctors interact with people on a daily basis, their training and their worth as physicians are focused almost entirely on their technical capabilities, leaving them with few tools for understanding and navigating social interactions and for collaborating as part of a larger team or organization.

According to the 2017 Great American Physician Survey, 17.34 percent of physicians surveyed said if they could do it over again, they would not choose healthcare as a career. This number was up from 10.6 percent the in 2016. And with a physician shortage looming, the last thing we need is for unhappy physicians to abandon the medical field.

A 2018 Medscape Report notes that the most common cause of physician burnout can be attributed to bureaucratic responsibilities charting and paperwork, while hours, lack of respect from colleagues, increasing electronic utilization (such as EMR's) and inefficient compensation were also contributing factors. One natural threat of burnout is higher physician turnover. So what’s a physician recruiter to do? Be their agent of change.

There’s a reason more than half of physicians (52.6%) are now employed by a hospital or medical group: physicians want to spend more time caring for patients and less time advocating for the business of medicine. Your job can ensure your candidates are doing just that.

Next, remind your candidates why they became doctors in the first place. Dike Drummond, M.D., says one skill doctors are bringing to the fight is the “connection to why we are a doctor – to our purpose. The quality of this connection varies day-by-day, however it is a source of immense power and endurance when the connection is clear.” Remember to emphasis a candidate's ability to connect with patients and truly make a difference.

Last, ensure your candidates are taking time for a break. Are they spending time with their family? Are they experiencing a work/life balance? If you think your candidates are experiencing burnout, be sure to remind them about the time-off benefits and flexibility of the role for which you are hiring.

Some programs are finding creative ways to take their own stand against physician burnout. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, is addressing the issue with a Taking Care of Our Own Program that seeks to increase awareness, and provide education and treatment for distressed physicians. The program has had an over 200% rate of growth in the first year, reflecting the enormous need for this type of service. And they’re eager to collaborate with others who are interested in tackling these critical issues.

Are you working with facilities that offer programs to fight physician burnout? We’d love to hear your insights. Connect with us at

Want to learn more about what physicians are looking for in their next opportunity? Our 2018 Physician Career Survey Report has the answers. 

View Report

Topics: prevailing signs of physician burnout, physician recruiters are agents of change, Physician burnout, Taking Care of Our Own Program, burnout research

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