Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - The Mayo Clinic, among other researchers, found that Physician burnout is a dangerous mix of exhaustion and depersonalization that contributes to physicians making mistakes while administering health care.

The study found that 45 percent of respondents experienced at least one symptom of burnout, with those in the specialties of urology, neurology, emergency medicine and general surgery at the highest risk. The study also showed that regardless of specialty, high levels of anxiety and low levels of empathy were reported during medical school were associated with burnout symptoms during residency.

“Our data show wide variability in the prevalence of burnout by clinical specialty, and that anxiety, social support, and empathy during medical school relate to the risk of burnout during residency,” says Liselotte Dyrbye, M.D. a Mayo Clinic researcher and first author of the article.

Residents with burnout had more than three-times increased in odds of regretting their decision to become a physician, and similarly, the higher the level of anxiety reported during medical school, the greater the chance of regretting becoming a physician.

Previous research has shown physician burnout has some relation to gender and ethnicity. Residents who identified as female had a high risk of burnout symptoms, matches studies of later-career physicians.

Not all of the study’s findings were negative. The majority of residents are satisfied with their career choice and specialty. In particular, participants who reported high empathy scores during medical school appeared to be more resilient to burnout during residency. This is counter to the common narrative that physicians need “thick skin” or an emotional aloofness to perform. About 50 medical schools were included in the research.
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