Newly published research co-written by the AMA shows how the COVID-19 pandemic magnified long-standing issues that have accelerated the U.S. physician burnout rate. At the end of 2021, nearly 63% of physicians reported symptoms of burnout, up from 38% in 2020. Research shows that large-scale change is needed to address the physician burnout crisis.
Burnout is a longterm stress reaction that can include:
- Emotional exhaustion.
- Depersonalization (i.e. lack of empathy for or negative attitudes toward patients).
- Feeling of decreased personal achievement.
All physician specialties and practice settings are affected by burnout.
When a physician experiences burnout, this can have a significant impact on organizational productivity and morale—and diverted attention to administrative tasks can lead to a reduction in the amount of time physicians can deliver direct patient care.
Reducing burnout is essential to high-quality patient care and a sustainable health system. By measuring and responding to physician burnout where it exists, solutions and interventions can be identified and developed at the systems level to be able to:
- Assess underlying drivers of burnout.
- Understand unique challenges to physician and care team well-being.
- Reduce drivers of stress within an organization.
- Proactively initiate programs (such as wellness or peer-to-peer networking) and infrastructure that support and promote well-being.
Physician well-being is influenced by both organizational and individual factors. Committed to making physician burnout a thing of the past, the AMA has studied and is addressing the issues causing and fueling physician burnout to better understand the challenges physicians face.
While many factors contribute to physician burnout, the burnout epidemic is often associated with system inefficiencies, administrative burdens and increased regulation and technology requirements.
That’s why the AMA is leading a movement to fight these system-level drivers of physician burnout and is focused on removing administrative burdens, providing real-world solutions and helping physicians rediscover the joy in health care—and it’s why reducing physician burnout is part of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.
The AMA has:
- Successfully fought for passage (PDF) of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which provides essential physician wellness resources and was signed into law in March 2022.
- Established a national campaign to help states enact confidentiality laws that protect physicians seeking help for wellness, burnout and fatigue, and remove inappropriate, stigmatizing questions on physician licensure and renewal applications. The campaign also helps health systems and academic medical institutions remove questions on credentialing and other applications that might prevent physicians, residents and medical students from seeking care for mental wellness.
- Advocated for new laws in Arizona (PDF), Delaware (PDF) and Mississippi that protect physicians who seek care from punitive actions.
- Built “Organizational Well-Being Assessment” (PDF), a tool that helps health care organizations holistically measure and take action to improve the well-being of their physicians and other health professionals.
- Shaped more than 40 policies and secured regulatory victories that have reduced documentation burdens.
The AMA is:
- Empowering and propelling health systems with research to reduce burnout so that physicians—and their patients—thrive.
- Equipping physicians and health care organizations with resources such as the AMA STEPS Forward® practice-innovation strategies that offer real-world solutions to the challenges that practices are confronting today.
- Recently adopted AMA policy on physician and medical student burnout.
- “Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Integration in Physicians During the First 2 Years of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Sept. 13, 2022, drawn from a survey co-sponsored by the AMA.
- The debunking regulatory myths series helps reduce guesswork and physician administrative burdens.
- AMA Physician Well-Being Program.
- AMA STEPS Forward playbooks on saving time, taming the EHR and private practice.
- AMA Joy in Medicine™ Health System Recognition Program.
Visit AMA Advocacy in Action to learn more about the advocacy priorities the AMA is actively working on.
The AMA works to generate support for policies critical to the nation’s health care system—and we can’t do it without your help. Learn more about ways to get involved with AMA advocacy.