Working for smaller, more personal practices leads to fewer instances of burnout

While burnout is a serious issue in all healthcare specialties, it has been found to be especially prevalent in radiology. Could the size of where radiologists work affect their chance of experiencing burnout? 

To explore the impact of a physician’s work environment on burnout, researchers collected data from 235 providers practicing at 174 small independent primary care practices (SIPs) located around New York City, sharing their findings in a new study for the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Overall, burnout was 13.5 percent among physicians employed at SIPs, a significant drop from 2014’s national rate of more than 54 percent.

“One explanation for this finding could be the autonomy (ie, control of work environment) associated with owning one's own practice as opposed to working in an integrated health system or Federally Qualified Health Center where providers are subject to greater administrative regulations,” wrote author Donna Shelley, MD, MPH, of New York University in New York, and colleagues. “Studies have found an association between low work control or autonomy and higher levels of burnout and that autonomy varies by practice size, with smaller practices reporting greater logistic autonomy than larger practices. Compared with larger practices, SIPs may have deeper relationships with their patients, which may lead to greater job satisfaction and less burnout among providers.”

Shelley et al. noted that one limitation their research was that all the SIPs were located in New York. Also, provider demographics that may have helped provide even more information were absent. However, they added, this study does shine more light on what can contribute to burnout.

“Future research is needed to better define the complex relationships between individual and organizational factors, including adaptive reserve and provider burnout and how these factors impact patient outcomes in SIPs,” the authors concluded.