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8 Fast Facts About Burnout Among Pulmonologists

Tired doctor with closed eyes during COVID-19

As the healthcare industry begins to look for its’ new normal after the pandemic, the mental health of physicians continues to be a concern. Medscape surveyed more than 13,000 physicians across 29 specialties to assess physicians’ levels of happiness in their personal and professional lives, as well as their attitudes about their careers and the medical profession.

Here are some key highlights from pulmonologists in the latest report.

How burned out are you?
Nurse holding head in hand in hospital
Extremely burned out
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Moderately burned out
Male doctor talking to female patient lying in hospital bed
Not very burned out
Extremely burned out
Moderately burned out
Not very burned out
Total votes: 298

1. The pandemic has had a considerable impacts on pulmonologists' happiness outside of work.  

Before the pandemic, 79% of pulmonologists said they were somewhat or very happy outside of work. That number has dropped to 57% of pulmonologists who now report being happy. Pulmonologists are on par with physicians overall, among whom 59% state they are happy outside of work.

2. Pulmonologists are in the middle range of burnout among all specialties. 

Nearly five out of 10 (48%) pulmonologists report feeling burned out. This places them in the middle of all specialties surveyed. The most burned out specialties in this year’s survey were Emergency Medicine (60%), Critical Care (56%) and Ob/Gyn (53%). The least burned out include Public Health and Preventive Medicine (26%), Dermatology (33%) and Pathology (35%).

3. Burnout is worse now than it was during the quarantine months of the pandemic. 

Two out of three pulmonologists (68%) indicated they are more burned out now than during the initial months of the pandemic. This is a larger proportion than reported by physicians overall, among whom 55% state burnout is worse now. One quarter of pulmonary specialists report burnout levels are the same since the pandemic began.

4. Bureaucracy is burning out pulmonologists. 

For most pulmonologists, it is not their clinical work that drives burnout. The top factors cited by pulmonologists surveyed were too many bureaucratic tasks (77%), too many hours at work (47%), and increasing role of EHRs in practice (39%). (Respondents could select more than one answer.)

5. Pulmonologists have both personal and professional ways of dealing with burnout.

Given the opportunity to choose more than one response, the top three ways pulmonologists attempt to alleviate burnout include reducing work hours (41%), making workflow or staff changes (23%), and meditating or using other stress-reduction techniques (19%). Less than one in 10 (7%) reported hiring additional clinical staff.

6. Three out of four pulmonologists say burnout affects their personal relationships. 

Three quarters (75%) of pulmonologists say burnout had a negative impact on their personal relationships, which is more than physicians overall (68%). The good news is that eight in 10 pulmonologists say they have “good” or “very good” marriages. However, this is down from previous reports when 93% of pulmonologists reported “good” or “very good” marriages. Otolaryngologists and allergists top the list among specialties reporting happy marriages, both at 91%.

7. Pulmonologists are working on themselves to maintain their happiness and mental health.

On a positive note, pulmonologists are resilient and have found healthy and meaningful ways to stay happy. Spending time with family and friends tops the list at 68%, followed by exercise (61%) and spending time on hobbies (55%).

8. Six in 10 pulmonologists would take a pay cut for better work-life balance. 

When asked if they would take a salary reduction in favor of a better work-life balance, 60% of pulmonologists said yes. This is higher than the 55% of physicians overall who indicate they are willing to trade compensation for more personal time.

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  1. Medscape Pulmonologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2022. Medscape.
  2. 'Death by 1000 Cuts': Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2021. Medscape.
  3. Medscape Pulmonologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2021. Medscape.
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