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One in two emergency care doctors will suffer a burnout during their career, according to a survey of French physicians, published online in Emergency Medicine Journal. The research was funded in part by the NEXT NURSES' EXIT STUDY ('Sustaining working ability in the nursing profession - investigation of premature departure from work') project, which received more than EUR 2 million under the 'Quality of life and management of living resources' Programme of the EU's Fifth Framework Programme (FP5).
Researchers asked over 3,000 salaried doctors to complete an online survey to assess their working conditions, job satisfaction, and health and well-being. Of these, 538 were emergency care specialists, and the rest were randomly selected to match the age, gender, and regional profile of France's physicians and their distribution by specialty, so as to provide a representative sample. The specialties represented included intensive care and anaesthetics, medicine, surgery, psychiatry, geriatric medicine, radiology, preventive medicine and pharmacy.
The responses showed that the prevalence of burnout was high, with 1 in 2 emergency care doctors identified as suffering from it, compared with more than 4 out of 10 of the representative sample. Physicians had the highest burnout rate in the two age groups, between 35 and 44 and between 45 and 54.
Poor work-life balance and dysfunctional teams were most strongly associated with burnout, both of which were more common among emergency care doctors than other types of medical practitioner.
The tension between home and working life was more than four times as likely to feature in the responses of burnt out physicians, but it was more than six times as likely to be a factor for emergency care doctors who were burnt out. And the greater the tension, the greater was the degree of burnout.
Similarly, poor teamwork more than doubled the risk of burnout among the representative sample, but it increased this risk more than five-fold among emergency care doctors. Likewise, physicians dissatisfied with their pay among the representative sample declared more burnout compared to those who were satisfied, and this relationship was even stronger for emergency physicians.
There were fewer women among the emergency care respondents, and they were also younger than the doctors in the representative sample. But more of the women doctors were burnt out than the men. Female physicians had a high burnout score more frequently among the representative sample and emergency physicians: 49.1% of female physicians versus 37.5% of male physicians of the representative sample, and 65.5% of female physicians versus 43.2% of male emergency physicians.
Burnt-out emergency care doctors tended to have a less active social life, to smoke more, eat a less healthy diet and to skip meals during the day more than the sample. Higher burnout scores were also associated with less time for continuing professional development. The results showed that 17% of the sample intended to leave medicine, rising to over 21% of emergency care doctors. Indeed, burnout more than doubled the risk of physicians wanting to leave the profession altogether.
The researchers said these results were important as France is facing a shortage of available physicians due to a greying population and the lack of a proportional increase in the training of doctors. Subsequently, emergency physicians are the medical system's first line of defence. The researchers said that in order to prevent the premature departure of French doctors, the work-family balance must be improved. They also called for the introduction of collaborative working processes and multidisciplinary teamwork. Source; European Union
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