Half of radiologists say they’re burned out, placing specialty in top 5

Nearly half of radiologists say they feel burned out on the job, which places the specialty in the top five among physicians, according to a new survey.

Urologists lead the way with about 54% expressing workplace fatigue, followed by neurologists (50%) and nephrologists (49%), according to Medscape online survey of more than 15,000 docs in 29 specialties (including 450 radiologists), published Jan. 15. Imaging fell into a five-way tie for the fourth spot at 46%, alongside diabetes/endocrinology, obstetrics/gynecology, family medicine and rheumatology.

All told, about 42% of docs reported feeling burned out, which Medscape defines as “long-term, unresolvable, job-related stress that leads to exhaustion, cynicism, feelings of detachment from one’s job responsibilities and lack of a sense of personal accomplishments.”

Numbers have stayed relatively flat in recent years, with this year’s mark representing a 4 percentage-point dip from 46% five years ago.

Women (48%) consistenly report higher levels of burnout than men (38%), oftentimes because they take on more non-promotable work and carry a larger burden in collaborative work. When separating the results by generation—millennials (ages 25-39), Xers (40-54), and baby boomers (55-73)—the middle group expressed the greatest levels of fatigue.

“Mid-career is typically the time of highest burnout, which is where Gen Xers are in their career trajectories,” Carol Bernstein, MD, vice chair for faculty development and well-being at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City, told the publication. “I suspect that group is juggling multiple roles outside of work, including caring for children as well as elderly parents, and working as well as planning for retirement.”

“Too many bureaucratic tasks,” such as paperwork and charting, was the leading cause of burnout across doctors at 55%, followed by “too many hours at work” (33%). Other contributors included “lack of respect from administrators, employers, colleagues or staff” (32%) and the “increasing computerization of practice” (30%).

All three generations listed bureaucracy as their top concern, and included too many work hours in the top three causes. Only baby boomers labeled computerization as a top-tier driver of burnout.

When attempting to cope with this stress, “isolate myself from others” was the No. 1 strategy for physicians at 45%, tied with exercise (45%), and just ahead of “talk with family members and close friends” (42%), and sleep (40%)

One noteworthy finding, according to Medscape, was that about half of all three generations (ranging from 48%-52%) said they’d even be willing to take a pay cut if it meant a better work-life balance.

“Expectations of what a career as a physician is in the 2020s are changing,” Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, told Medscape. “Physicians recognize that seeing a smaller number of patients may give them more time with patients and the ability to practice medicine at the height of their license, reducing non-clinical hours and enhancing personal satisfaction, which ultimately may decrease burnout and extend their career life.”

You can read the findings of the “Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020: The Generational Divide” report here, and check out coverage of the 2019 report from Radiology Business here. Last week, the publication also reported statistics from the same survey related to physician happiness outside of the workplace.