Physician Health

Physician burnout rate drops below 50% for first time in 4 years

Sara Berg, MS , News Editor

AMA News Wire

Physician burnout rate drops below 50% for first time in 4 years

Jul 2, 2024

Physician burnout has been a long-standing issue in the medical community. After skyrocketing to a record-high 62.8% in 2021, exclusive survey data from the AMA show doctor burnout has fallen below 50% for the first time since 2020.

The shift marks a milestone in the ongoing battle against physician burnout, but the fight is far from over. Continued efforts are essential to address the root causes of physician burnout and ensure that doctors receive the support they need to thrive.

The AMA is advocating for you

The AMA has achieved recent wins in 5 critical areas for physicians.

As the leader in physician well-being, the AMA is reducing physician burnout by removing administrative burdens and providing real-world solutions to help doctors rediscover the Joy in Medicine™.

More than 12,400 responses from physicians across 31 states were received from 81 health systems and organizations who participated in the AMA Organizational Biopsy® between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2023. The AMA national physician comparison report—which is exclusive data to the AMA that is not published anywhere else—reflects 2023 trends in six key performance indicators—job satisfaction, job stress, burnout, intent to leave an organization, feeling valued by an organization and total hours spent per week on work-related activities (known as “time spend”).

The purpose of the aggregated data is to provide a national summary of organizational well-being and to serve as a comparison for other health care organizations. The results may be limited by the health systems that chose to participate. 

For 2023, 48.2% of physicians reported experiencing at least one symptom of burnout, down from 53% in 2022. While the data from the AMA’s national physician comparison report includes signs that physician burnout has fallen since its peak in late 2021, the extent of the problem remains a startling reality that demands ongoing attention, especially among those who are at highest risk.

“Overall, this signals that reported levels of burnout from this group of respondents is less than it was last year” and in other years after COVID-19 hit, said Nancy Nankivil, director of organizational well-being at the AMA.  

“This is moving in the right direction,” Nankivil said, noting that there is variation in key indicators such as reported burnout across organizations.

“Some of the variables include demographic factors such as specialty, gender or years in practice,” she added.

Since 2011, the AMA, Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medicine have conducted triennial surveys that have charted the physician burnout epidemic at different moments in time, most recently the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most questions are the same, these figures cannot be directly compared because there is a different group of respondents. Nevertheless, they shed light on the ongoing burnout epidemic.

Here are the other key performance indicators of physician well-being highlighted in the AMA national physician comparison report. 

Get the latest news on physician well-being

Subscribe for insights and real-world solutions delivered straight to your inbox.

Three people stand at a straight arrow, overlayed on a curving pathway

Between 2022 and 2023, physicians’ job satisfaction rose from 68% to 72.1%. The AMA national physician comparison report also provided insights into variations across gender, physician specialty and years in practice. Those figures will be published in upcoming AMA news articles.

“It is critical for executive leaders to maintain a commitment to organizational well-being,” said Nankivil, noting that “we cannot improve what we are not measuring, so assessing system drivers of well-being through a validated and consistent tool is important.”

That is why it is important for organizations and physician leaders to “tap into resources and best practices by joining a community of thought leaders and change agents invested in this work,” she said.

Without this, it is estimated that burnout costs the U.S. health care system $4.6 billion a year, largely due to physician turnover and work-hour reductions. In fact, for every physician who leaves due to burnout, the related cost to the organization is $500,000 to $1 million or more depending on the specialty.

The AMA Joy in Medicine™ Health System Recognition Program provides a road map (PDF) for health-system leaders interested in implementing programs and policies that actively support well-being.

Learn more about AMA resources to help advance your organization’s recognition and download the well-being toolkit to read how health systems have partnered with the AMA.

Physicians continue to experience job stress, but there has been some positive movement on this key performance indicator. In 2023, 50.7% expressed feeling a great deal of stress because of their job—down from 55.6% in 2022.

A source of that stress? More than one-quarter of respondents said they did not have enough physicians and support staff. There was an ongoing need for more nurses, medical assistants or documentation assistance to reduce physician workload. In addition, 12.7% of respondents said that too many administrative tasks were to blame for job stress. The lack of support staff, time and payment for administrative work also increases physicians’ job stress.

“We are seeing differences among organizations that have been focused on interventions to drive positive changes in workflow or workload such as improving inbox management or redesigning workflows to optimize team delegation,” Nankivil said.

Explore how the AMA Health System Program works with health care leaders to tailor solutions that maximize support for physicians and care teams.

Feeling valued is a striking mitigator of burnout. It also contributes to physicians’ intent to leave their current role in two years.

In 2023, 50.4% of physicians expressed feeling valued by their organization to a great extent or moderately, up from 46.3% in 2022. Meanwhile, 16% did not feel valued at all by their organization, which is a drop from 18%. This is a key finding for many health systems concerned about retention.

The AMA has achieved significant wins to improve physician well-being and in other critical areas for physicians. Download the progress report (PDF) for more details as the AMA continues fighting for doctors. 

Learn more about why organizational well-being key performance indicators matter to your health system’s bottom line.

Combat physician burnout