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The Many Dangers Posed by Burned-Out Doctors

The Many Dangers Posed by Burned-Out Doctors
Photograph by JFB/Getty Images

Is your doctor suffering? Do the symptoms include cynicism, emotional exhaustion, or viewing patients as objects rather than people? He or she may be experiencing burnout. In fact, there’s a 50 percent chance that any doctor is—a rate 10 percent higher than among the general population of working people.

The first nationwide study of burnout among doctors in the U.S. offered that grim diagnosis this week. The authors, led by Tait D. Shanafelt of the Mayo Clinic, reported their findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine. About 46 percent of the 7,200 doctors surveyed showed at least one symptom of this condition, described as an “erosion of the soul” in the book, The Truth About Burnout.