Physicians Should Spent Time on Meaningful Pursuits

“Unfortunately, an expanding body of literature reports growing personal distress among physicians and a decrease in their satisfaction with the practice of medicine”, the authors write as background information in the article. “Specifically, numerous studies have documented high rates of burnout and poor mental health among U.S. physicians and have suggested that physician distress can have a profound impact on patient quality of care as well as on a physician’s personal health.”

In addition to factors affecting all physicians, such as increased administrative work and less time with patients, academic faculty must navigate a variety of requirements that compete for their time. Each individual physician derives varying levels of satisfaction from these components, which include research, education and administrative responsibilities. To better understand how career fit - the extent to which an individual is able to focus on those aspects they find the most meaningful - influences burnout, Tait D. Shanafelt, and colleagues conducted a survey.

Of 556 physicians selected to participate, 465 (84 percent) returned surveys. When asked which aspect of work they found most meaningful, most (68 percent) reported patient care, whereas 19 percent selected research, nine percent education and three percent administration. Overall, 34 percent of faculty members met criteria for burnout, which include emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and low personal accomplishment.

A total of 385 of 437 physicians (88 percent) spent at least 20 percent (about one day per week) of their effort on the activity they reported to be most personally meaningful; those who did had about half the rate of burnout as those who spent less than 20 percent of their time on this activity (29.9 percent versus 53.8 percent). “The association between time spent in the most meaningful activity and burnout was strong and was the largest predictor of burnout on multivariate analysis after other factors were controlled for,” the authors write.; Source: American Medical Association (AMA)