Pathology Ranks Third Among Least Burned-Out Specialties

Lucy Hicks

February 18, 2022

About one third (35%) of pathologists are burned-out, according to the Medscape Pathology Lifestyle, Happiness, and Burnout Report 2022.

Pathology was the third least burned-out specialty, while public health and preventive medicine had the lowest reported rate of burnout (26%). Physicians in emergency medicine (60%) and critical care (56%) had the greatest rates of work-related fatigue. 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 2% of respondents were pathologists. Sixty-one percent of respondents 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.

Forty-six percent of female pathologists reported burnout, compared to a quarter of their male peers. Forty-two percent of female respondents also said they felt conflicted balancing parenthood and their medical careers, while just 16% of male respondents said the same.

The most frequent contributors to burnout cited by pathologists were too many hours at work (62%), lack of respect from colleagues (49%), and lack of control in life (44%). While 6 in 10 physicians across all specialties listed too many bureaucratic tasks as the reason for burnout, a smaller proportion of pathologists (40%) said the same. About two thirds of pathologists (68%) said burnout has had a negative effect on their personal relationships.

Forty-six percent of pathologists said they were more burned-out now than during the initial stage of the pandemic, a slightly lower percentage than physicians overall (55%). Forty-seven percent of pathologists said their burnout was unchanged, and 7% said work-related fatigue had decreased during that time. The top strategy among pathologists to combat burnout was participating in meditation or other stress-reduction techniques (36%), followed by reducing work hours (18%) and changing work settings (18%). Fifty-six percent of respondents said they would take a pay cut to improve their work-life balance.

Clinical depression was more common among pathologists (29%) than physicians overall (24%). About 7 in 10 pathologists with depression (71%) said the condition did not affect their interactions with patients, while 19% said they were less motivated to carefully take patient notes. One in 10 respondents said they made errors that they might not have ordinarily made.

While about 8 in 10 pathologists (82%) said they were happy with their life outside work prior to the pandemic, that proportion has now dropped to 62%. This percentage is similar to that of physicians overall (59%). Outside of work, pathologists said they participated in hobbies (66%), spent time with family and friends (62%), and exercised (62%) to maintain their happiness and well-being.

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