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Physician Burnout—A Serious Symptom, But of What?

Educational Objective
To understand how burnout assessed among physicians and what is the prevalence of burnout among physicians?
1 Credit CME

A patient complains of intermittent wheezing. He cannot characterize the wheezing further with regard to timing, precipitating events, or how it affects his health. A physician makes a diagnosis of asthma without further evaluation, gives the patient several recommendations regarding lifestyle modification and potential precipitants, and prescribes an inhaled long-acting β-agonist and corticosteroid.

Few physicians would endorse this approach to the patient’s care. Yet that is how the profession is approaching the issue of physician burnout. The term burnout has taken on meaning far beyond what is understood about it as an actual diagnosis or even a syndrome. The medical profession has taken a self-reported complaint of unhappiness and dissatisfaction and turned it into a call for action on what is claimed to be a national epidemic that purportedly affects half to two-thirds of practicing physicians.1

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Thomas L. Schwenk, MD, School of Medicine, University of Nevada, 1664 N Virginia St, Reno, NV 89557 (tschwenk@med.unr.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

References
1.
Thomas  LR, Ripp  JA, West  CP.  Charter on physician well-being.  JAMA. 2018;319(15):1541-1542. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.1331PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
2.
Eckleberry-Hunt  J, Kirkpatrick  H, Barbera  T.  The problems with burnout research.  Acad Med. 2018;93(3):367-370. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000001890PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
3.
Rotenstein  LS, Torre  M, Ramos  MA,  et al.  Prevalence of burnout among physicians: a systematic review.  JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.12777Google Scholar
4.
Dyrbye  LN, Burke  SE, Hardeman  RR,  et al.  Association of clinical specialty with symptoms of burnout and career choice regret among US resident physicians.  JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.12615Google Scholar
5.
Maslach  C, Jackson  SE, Leiter  MP.  Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual. 3rd ed. Menlo Park, CA: Mind Garden Inc; 1996.
6.
Schwenk  TL.  Physician well-being and the regenerative power of caring.  JAMA. 2018;319(15):1543-1544. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.1539PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
7.
Blue Ridge Academic Health Group. The hidden epidemic: the moral imperative for academic health centers to address health professionals’ well-being. http://whsc.emory.edu/blueridge/publications/archive/blue-ridge-winter2017-2018.pdf. Accessed July 28, 2018.
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