More than six years ago, Geneia debuted the Physician Misery Index, a tool to help measure physician burnout but more importantly, to raise awareness of the problem. At the time, the findings of our national survey of 400 full-time physicians startled many of us.
The Physician Misery Index was 3.7 out of 5 with 87 percent of doctors saying the business and regulation of healthcare had worsened the practice of medicine. Two-thirds of physicians said they knew a peer who was likely to stop practicing in the next five years due to burnout. Fifty-one percent said they had considered career options outside of medicine.
Fast forward to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the outset, physicians were already burned out. I suspect there was some respite from burnout in the early months of the pandemic when doctors were celebrated for their heroism. They risked their health – and the health of their loved ones – to care for COVID-19 patients. In April 2020, New York residents opened their windows to clap for healthcare workers. People in Italy and Britain did it too.
It’s been far too long since people were applauding healthcare workers. In its place, as ICUs in the south are full and the state of Idaho has activated crisis standards of care, I hear physicians posting on social media and attending school board meetings to appeal to people to wear masks and get vaccinated.
Too many of these courageous doctors have faced backlash. Outside a Franklin, TN school board meeting, for example, anti-mask protestors threatened physicians – the same overworked physicians who staff ICUs overflowing with COVID-19 patients – shouting, “We know who you are.”
Is it any wonder that there are epidemic rates of physician burnout?
- 80 percent of physicians say they are burned out right now.
- The average rating of physicians’ level of burnout is 6.8 out of 10.
- 78 percent report their feelings of burnout have made them want to quit practicing medicine.
As the pandemic continues, and hopefully one day soon, subsides, I fear the epidemic of physician burnout will get worse, potentially much worse.
Meet Gabe Charbonneau, MD: A Warrior in the Fight to End Physician Burnout
Gabe Charbonneau, MD, is an unlikely warrior in the fight to end physician burnout. He grew up in a small town in Idaho and now is a family physician in rural Montana. To help physicians with EMR usability, he developed macros to reduce the number of steps needed to input data. His work with physicians and EMRs helped him realize the pervasiveness of physician burnout.
He started an organization, FightBurnout.org, to raise awareness of the issue and the people who are working to address burnout. He created a symbolic t-shirt that he sends to those who are “doing inspiring work to a difference in physician burnout.”
Here is me in my shirt.
Visit https://www.fightburnout.org/warriors to see the many others, including Geeta Nayyar, MD, executive medical director and general manager of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Salesforce, Rasu Shrestha, MD, chief strategy and transformation officer, executive vice president at Atrium Health, and Janae Sharp, founder of the Sharp Index.
Listen now to Geneia Conversations: Redefining Healthcare to hear Dr. Gabe Charbonneau discuss his work as co-founder of Medicine Forward a grassroots “organization of doctors whose mission is to stand up for what is sacred in medicine – our relationship with our patients and the progress we’re making to restore the joy of medicine to practicing physicians.