Which physician specialties have the worst burnout?

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Has your doctor ever barked at you or slammed a door on his way out of the examination room?

Physician burnout is not a pretty thing.

It starts with exhaustion and can spiral down into feelings of cynicism and overwork, loss of enthusiasm, low sense of personal accomplishment—and even depression and suicide.

More than half of the doctors in the U.S. have suffered from burnout, according to a recent Mayo Clinic study.

The American Medical Association called it the “top physician issue” of 2015.

But does it affect all physician specialties equally? Not according to a new Medscape survey, which breaks it down by specialty.

The specialties experiencing more burnout are those in which doctors deal directly with patients with a range of complex problems:

•    Emergency medicine (59 percent)
•    Ob/gyn (56 percent)
•    Family medicine, internal medicine and infectious disease (55 percent).

At the other end of the scale, here are the specialties seeing less burnout:

•    Psychiatry (42 percent)
•    Allergy and immunology; immunology; pathology (43 percent)
•    Diabetes and endocrinology; and dermatology (46 percent).

Some overall trends:

•    Burnout rates for all physicians have been moving up since 2013, the first year Medscape asked about it, when the overall rate was 40 percent. This year, it is 51 percent.

•    Causes of burnout include too many bureaucratic tasks, spending too many hours at work, feeing “like just a cog in a wheel,” increased use of electronic medical records, money issues and too many difficult patients.

•    Burnout rates were highest in the Northwest (43 percent), Southwest (53 percent), South Central (52 percent) and Great Lakes (which includes Indiana, 52 percent).

The results largely mirror those of a 2014 survey by the Mayo Clinic and the AMA. It too found the highest rate of burnout in the emergency room.

The Medscape survey did not offer any advice to how to turn around physician burnout. But patients can help by being nicer to their doctor, showing up on time for appointments and following orders. That just might result in the best health outcomes.

And possibly a happier doc.

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