Dr Kathleen Blake Outlines How Burnout Affects Specialties Differently

Looking at how burnout affects specialties differently shows that it’s not a work–life balance issues, but a systems one, said Kathleen Blake, MD, MPH, vice president for Performance Improvement at the American Medical Association.

Does the American Medical Association have information about how burnout affects different specialties?
Yes, and our 2 surveys published, so far, and the one that’s currently being analyzed, do break it down by physicians’ specialties. And we do look at the internal medicine subspecialties, which includes, of course, oncology. Where I find that data particularly interesting is that the field with the highest rate of burnout is emergency medicine, but the field with the highest favorable rating on work­–life balance is emergency medicine. So what that says to you, that paradox or seeming paradox, to me is really strong evidence: it’s not a work–life balance, it’s not a commitment problem, but that really have to focus on the systems problems.

Final words on the issue of burnout?
I think this is a treatable issue, a solvable problem. But I think if I leave the viewers with nothing else, I would want to say: it’s worth solving. It’s good for all of us. It’s good for clinicians, it’s good for health systems. But, most of all, it’s better for patients. And, quite frankly, we will all be patients at some point in our lives. I would really hope that we could have addressed this in a way so that we all have the kind of health and healthcare that we really want.
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