Why Nine Out of Ten Physicians Are Stressed

December 6, 2011

When you consider other mounting pressures in the medical world, it’s no wonder physicians can’t simply relax and enjoy their jobs.

A survey of more than 2,000 physicians taken in September reveals 86 percent of physicians consider themselves “moderately to severely stressed and/or burnt out.” 

What’s more, nearly 63 percent of respondents to the survey, conducted by Physician Wellness Services, a company that works with healthcare organizations to improve working conditions, and Cejka Search, a physician and healthcare job search firm, say their stress has increased moderately to dramatically in the past three years. And only 15 percent say their organizations do anything to help them deal more effectively with their stress or burnout.

We’re not surprised by this. Given the current economy, physicians aren’t the only professionals stressed out about work. And when you consider other mounting pressures in the medical world - looming reimbursement cuts, uncertain healthcare reform, unemployed and uninsured patients, and the rising cost of technology - it’s no wonder physicians can’t relax and enjoy their jobs. The survey also revealed that, in addition to the aforementioned stressors, long work hours was a source of stress, too, along with concerns about medical malpractice lawsuits.

The result of this cumulative stress is declining job satisfaction: Fourteen percent of respondents indicated they had left their practice as a result of stress, according to the survey.

Lori Schutte, president of Cejka Search, said the survey results were in line with what she’s seen in the healthcare world.

“We generally think of physicians as people who are in high-income categories, so we think, ‘why would they have any worries?’” Schutte told Physicians Practice. “But I think the stresses that we hear about [include] an economy that’s unstable, a work pool that’s shrinking, a population that’s aging, and reimbursement.”

In addition to hearing “we’re going to pay you less” from the government, physicians are also dealing with a greater level of regulation from insurance companies in terms of the care they may provide.

“They’re restricting physicians’ access and clamping down on what they can or can’t do,” said Schutte. “It’s not like the days of Marcus Welby where the good doctor did what was good for the patient. That was the way we always pictured it. You never had someone say, ‘you have to get approval for that from X, Y, or Z.’”

For tips on how physicians can deal with stress, check out our recent video interview with Kathleen Hall, founder of The Stress Institute.