By Sy Mukherjee
January 16, 2019

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

The men and women tasked with treating our maladies are biological beings, too. That (admittedly obvious) reality is highlighted in a new Medscape survey on physician burnout, depression, and suicide.

The report has a pretty depressing conclusion: “Burnout and depression rates among U.S. physicians failed to improve in 2019, despite growing efforts by healthcare organizations, hospitals, and academic centers to address the issue through wellness programs and other interventions,” wrote the authors.

It also points out some glaring discrepancies in how different kinds of doctors deal with the reality of such a high-stress job. For instance, women physicians were considerably more likely (by nearly 30%) to report burnout; perhaps unsurprisingly, a higher number of hours worked correlated with higher burnout rates. The survey examined some 15,000 physicians across 29 medical specialities.

Medscape’s report contains plenty of nuggets worth parsing, including a breakdown of burnout by specialty (urologists, neurologists, and rehab docs reported the highest burnout rates). Strikingly, the main source of this work fatigue stemmed, not necessarily from the challenging nature of patient treatment, but the administrative burdens imposed by hassles such as extensive paperwork (on top of long hours).

But perhaps the most concerning survey finding is how doctors, ironically, may be resistant to treatment. “Fourteen percent of physicians responding said they have thought of suicide. (1% said they have attempted suicide, and 6% preferred not to answer.) The report found that 43% of these physicians spoke to no one about their suicidal thoughts, and only one-third discussed them with a therapist. The equivalent of one doctor per day commits suicide each year,” wrote the authors.

Even extensive medical knowledge can’t seem to supplant the fundamental realities of being a human.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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