Physician burnout by specialty: Who leads the pack?

Each year more and more research has come out to try and grab the attention of the public and the leaders in healthcare to the worsening epidemic that has been around much before the COVID pandemic. This epidemic was first noted in the early days of the 1970s [1] and from then swept the nation and has only worsened like a slight 21st-century plague–physician burnout plague, which, if not addressed, will be a detriment to patients, physicians, and the future of medicine alike.


Realizing this issue has been a continued issue of dismissive attention by the masses, the World Health Organization (WHO) came together back in 2019 to redefine the definition of burnout, now categorizing it as a “syndrome” that results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.[2] Sadly, this change has not affected the rising epidemic as once hoped.


In the past two years, physicians and healthcare workers have dealt with more stress and unprecedented conditions due to the COVID pandemic, which has only exacerbated the problem. Physician burnout is not equal. Certain specialties are “more affected” by the larger causes than others, which one can guess could be due to the extreme circumstances of their everyday “workday.” This “assumption” has been validated in the recent 2022 Report of Physician Burnout & Depression, focusing on Stress, Anxiety, and Anger. Emergency Medicine & Critical Care have, unfortunately, outdone all other specialties, with above 55% of physicians of each being the most burned out. OB/GYN and Infectious disease physicians sadly are right behind with 53 and 51%.[3]


Healthcare leaders and the general public may assume that burnout is due to the extreme circumstances of their everyday “workday,” yet when more than 13,000 physicians in 29 specialties were asked, “what contributes the most to burnout,” and the number 1 answer with a total of 60% stating it is actually due to the “many bureaucratic tasks which included charting and paperwork[4].”  This answer has been the number 1 answer year after year, yet it appears to fall on deaf ears to healthcare leaders that can or already know a solution to the compounding problem.


The stigma about physician burnout must end so healthcare leaders can focus on solutions to this epidemic.








[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6367114/

[2] https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/who-adds-burnout-icd-11-what-it-means-physicians

[3] https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2022-lifestyle-burnout-6014664#2

[4] https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2022-lifestyle-burnout-6014664#4