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Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Integration in Physicians Over the First 2 Years of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Open AccessPublished:September 13, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2022.09.002
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      ABSTRACT:

      Objective

      To evaluate the prevalence of burnout and satisfaction with work-life integration (WLI) in US physicians at the end of 2021, roughly 21 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with comparison to 2020, 2017, 2014, and 2011.

      Methods

      Between December 9, 2021, and January 24, 2022, we surveyed US physicians using methods similar to our prior studies. Burnout, WLI, depression, and professional fulfillment were assessed using standard instruments.

      Results

      There were 2440 physicians who participated in the 2021 survey. Mean emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scores were higher in 2021 than observed in 2020, 2017, 2014 and 2011 (all p<.001). Mean emotional exhaustion scores increased 38.6% (2020 mean=21.0; 2021 mean=29.1; p<.001) while mean depersonalization scores increased 60.7% (2020 mean=6.1; 2021 mean=9.8; p<.001). Overall, 62.8% of physicians had at least one manifestation of burnout in 2021 compared with 38.2% in 2020, 43.9% in 2017, 54.4% in 2014, and 45.5% in 2011 (all P<.001). While these trends were consistent across nearly all specialties, substantial variability by specialty was observed. Satisfaction with WLI declined from 46.1% in 2020 to 30.2% in 2021 (P<.001). Mean scores for depression increased 6.1% (2020 mean=49.54; 2021 mean=52.59; p<.001).

      Conclusion

      A dramatic increase in burnout and decrease in satisfaction with WLI occurred in US physicians between 2020 and 2021. Differences in mean depression scores were modest suggesting the increase in physician distress was overwhelmingly work-related. Given the association of physician burnout with quality of care, turnover, and reductions in work effort, these findings have profound implications for the US healthcare system.

      Abbreviations:

      AMA (American Medical Association), NAM (National Academy of Medicine), OR (Odds ratio), PPE (Personal protective equipment), SD (Standard Deviation), US (United States), WLI (work-life integration)