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Many Young Doctors Report Burnout, Regret Career Choice

Last Updated: September 18, 2018.

TUESDAY, Sept. 18, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Burnout affects nearly half of all resident physicians in the United States, raising their risk for serious mistakes, a new study finds.

Also, many of these young doctors regret their career choice, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

Specialties with the highest rates of burnout are urology, neurology, emergency medicine and general surgery, the researchers said.

"Our data show wide variability in the prevalence of burnout by clinical specialty, and that anxiety, social support and empathy during medical school relate to the risk of burnout during residency," study first author Dr. Liselotte Dyrbye, a Mayo Clinic researcher, said in a clinic news release.

To examine the factors involved in physician burnout, researchers followed nearly 3,600 medical students from 50 U.S. schools. Participants were surveyed in their fourth and final year of medical school and again their second year of residency.

Most residents were satisfied with their decision to become a doctor and with their chosen specialty, the findings showed.

But 45 percent reported at least one warning sign of burnout. Experiencing severe anxiety and low levels of empathy during medical school was associated with this physical and emotional fatigue. These residents were also more than three times more likely to regret their decision to become a doctor, the study found.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It was published Sept. 18 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pathology and anesthesiology residents who felt burned out were most likely to say that if given the choice, they would "definitely not" or "probably not" become a physician again.

Gender and ethnicity also played a role in doctor burnout, the study authors noted.

Female residents were at greater risk for signs of burnout than males. And Hispanic residents were also more likely to regret their specialty choice. The researchers said these doctors are often pressured to participate in institutional diversity initiatives that could make their schedules more demanding than those of nonminority residents.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more on physician burnout.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Sept. 18, 2018

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