Physician Burnout and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Framework for Action

David A Rothenberger
Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 2017, 60 (6): 567-576

BACKGROUND: Physician burnout in the United States has reached epidemic proportions and is rising rapidly, although burnout in other occupations is stable. Its negative impact is far reaching and includes harm to the burned-out physician, as well as patients, coworkers, family members, close friends, and healthcare organizations.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review is to provide an accurate, current summary of what is known about physician burnout and to develop a framework to reverse its current negative impact, decrease its prevalence, and implement effective organizational and personal interventions.

DATA SOURCES: I completed a comprehensive MEDLINE search of the medical literature from January 1, 2000, through December 28, 2016, related to medical student and physician burnout, stress, depression, suicide ideation, suicide, resiliency, wellness, and well-being. In addition, I selectively reviewed secondary articles, books addressing the relevant issues, and oral presentations at national professional meetings since 2013.

STUDY SELECTION: Healthcare organizations within the United States were studied.

RESULTS: The literature review is presented in 5 sections covering the basics of defining and measuring burnout; its impact, incidence, and causes; and interventions and remediation strategies.

CONCLUSIONS: All US medical students, physicians in training, and practicing physicians are at significant risk of burnout. Its prevalence now exceeds 50%. Burnout is the unintended net result of multiple, highly disruptive changes in society at large, the medical profession, and the healthcare system. Both individual and organizational strategies have been only partially successful in mitigating burnout and in developing resiliency and well-being among physicians. Two highly effective strategies are aligning personal and organizational values and enabling physicians to devote 20% of their work activities to the part of their medical practice that is especially meaningful to them. More research is needed.

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