Dr W. Clay Jackson on the Prevalence of Clinician Burnout

There is a high prevalence of burnout, and maybe 2 or 3 factors contributing to that, explained W. Clay Jackson, MD, DipTh, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, department of family medicine, University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

We do know that there is a high prevalence of burnout, and there may be 2 or 3 factors contributing to that, explained W. Clay Jackson, MD, DipTh, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, department of family medicine, University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

TranscriptHas the prevalence of clinician burnout gotten better or worse over the last few years?

I think we really don’t know the answer to that question, and the reason is we’ve only begun to look at the issue of clinician burnout systematically in healthcare over the last 2 decades. Christina Maslach, PhD, initially reported in the psychologic literature and the social work literature the concept of burnout in a broader work setting in the 1980s.

But, we’ve only been looking for clinicians, specifically, over the last decade or 2. We do know that there is a high prevalence of burnout, and there may be 2 or 3 factors contributing to that. The increasing administrative burden of the electronic health records is something that clinicians often complain about and we think it may be driving additional burnout.

There’s another important factor, and that is that there are a number of other healthcare professionals that have joined this sort of clinical fray over the last 2 decades, and those would be, specifically, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Those clinicians are asked to do the work, probably 80% of the workload in terms of complexity of traditional MDs or DOs, but they unfortunately have about 10% of the clinical hours of training that’s required, so this creates a mismatch. So, burnout may be rising in the total clinician community because of those increasing phenomena.