Infectious Disease Docs: More Than Half Report Burnout

Lucy Hicks

February 18, 2022

More than half of infectious disease (ID) physicians (51%) are burned out, according to the Medscape Infectious Disease Physician Lifestyle, Happiness, and Burnout Report 2022.

ID ranked fourth among the most burned-out specialties, exceeded only by emergency medicine (60%), critical care (56%), and ob/gyn (53%). Across all specialties, 47% of physicians reported burnout, a higher proportion than last year (42%).

This new report was compiled from an online survey that included more than 13,000 physicians from 29 specialties, of which 1% of respondents were ID physicians. Most respondents (61%) were male; 38% were female. The most common age of respondents was 55–64 (31%), followed by 45–54 (25%), and those 65 years or older (20%). The survey was available from June 29, 2021, to September 26, 2021.

Female ID physicians reported burnout at a greater rate than their male colleagues (68% vs 39%). The most common factor contributing to burnout was the volume of bureaucratic tasks (60%), followed by too many work hours (45%) and lack of respect from colleagues and staff (39%). Respondents also listed insufficient salary (31%), general lack of control in life (29%), and stress from treating COVID-19 patients (21%) as contributing factors to work exhaustion. Six in ten (60%) ID physicians reported that they were more burned-out now than during the first few months of the pandemic, slightly higher than the proportion of physicians across all specialties (55%).

Participating in meditation or other stress-reduction techniques was the most popular method among ID physicians to alleviate burnout (40%). Respondents also said they spoke to their hospital administration about productivity pressure (28%), made workflow or staff changes to ease their workload (16%), and reduced their work hours (15%). Sixth out of ten (60%) ID physicians said that they would decrease their salary if that meant a better work-life balance.

More than half of ID physicians (58%) said burnout had taken a lot on their personal relationships, which is a lower proportion than physicians across all specialties (68%). Among female ID physicians, 49% said they felt "very conflicted" or "conflicted" balancing parenthood and their medical careers, compared to 34% of their male peers. ID physicians ranked near the middle of specialists in terms of reporting marital happiness (83%). Allergists and otolaryngologists topped the maritial-happiness list (91%), while plastic surgeons ranked last (75%).

To promote health and happiness outside of work, ID physicians said they spent time with their family and friends (72%), participated in non–work-related hobbies (70%), and exercised (67%). A smaller percentage (12%) of respondents said therapy helped maintain their well-being.

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