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Emergency Room Doctors Are Especially Overworked

Daniel Lobo / CC BY 2.0

Daniel Lobo / CC BY 2.0

A recent study showed that the highest rates of burnout in the medical profession were found among front-line physicians: family doctors, internal specialists, neurologists and emergency MDs.

The mean average of those who reported burnout in the survey of U.S. physicians was 45.8 percent. Emergency physicians had the dubious distinction of having the highest burnout rate, at more than 60 percent.

MedPage Today reports:

“Emergency physicians are a little more aware of burnout because of the intensity of their work,” said Shay Bintliff, MD, 80, who recently stopped working after 30 years as an ER doctor. “Work environments that are high demand and low control are most likely to lead to burnout. ER docs work for somebody else. They work for a group, a hospital, or a corporation. They don’t have a single individual practice where they call the shots. They are pretty much at somebody else’s mercy.”

An emergency-room doctor in Phoenix said he chose emergency medicine “because you can make a big difference right away. It’s a fun job.”

“But the problem is, you don’t really do that any more. It’s less about patient care and more about fluffing patient satisfaction surveys — all the myriad things that have to be charted for the government to pay you for the work you did, rather than making an immediate difference.”

The doctor asked not to be identified by name for fear of endangering his group’s contract with the hospital where he works. “If I could find another job where I could find the income I make now, I’d leave in a heartbeat,” he said.

Another study cited by MedPage Today found that 43.8 percent of hospital professionals were affected by emotional exhaustion, and 42.3 percent reported an experience of depersonalization.

Shockingly, 9.2% of hospitalists reported suicidal ideation in the previous 12 months. About 29% of hospitalists said they were likely to leave their current practice in the next 2 years, and 13 percent said they would definitely leave.

They ranked “loss of autonomy and control over content of clinical work” and “unreasonable quantity of work and pace” as the leading causes of dissatisfaction. “Regulatory and professional liability concerns” came in third.

MedPage Today quoted Henry J. Michtalik, a physician at Johns Hopkins University, saying that doctors are put in a terrible position as Medicare tries to save money on hospital admissions:

When a patient presents with atrial fibrillation, he or she has to be hospitalized. But Medicare will no longer pay for that admission, saying the patient should be placed in observation status instead. Observation status means the patient is responsible for the hospital bill.

“The worst part is they put you, the doctor, in the position of explaining it,” he said. “It’s not our choice. We’re being blamed for it. It’s not a decision in our hands and we can’t change it. I’ve been in situations where people begged me not to make them an observation patient, because they can’t afford it.” That internal conflict “adds to the amount of stress you’re feeling.”

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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