The study, detailed in JAMA Network Open, uncovers the distressing reality of academic physicians contemplating departure from their roles, heavily influenced by burnout. Analyzing responses from 18,000 physicians across various specialties, it reveals that 32.6 percent express intentions to leave within two years, directly linked to burnout levels. Notably, specialties like anesthesiology show higher rates of departure intent, while factors such as professional fulfillment and workplace support significantly impact these intentions. Prioritizing interventions to address burnout and enhance well-being emerges as pivotal in retaining and supporting physicians within academic settings.
This research, showcased in JAMA Network Open, delves into the concerning phenomenon of academic physicians contemplating leaving their positions due to burnout. Examining responses from a vast cohort of physicians spanning diverse specialties, the study exposes an alarming 32.6 percent expressing intentions to depart within two years. Specialties like anesthesiology exhibit heightened departure rates, emphasizing the complex relationship between burnout, professional fulfillment, and intention to leave. Understanding these dynamics is crucial in formulating strategies aimed at bolstering physician well-being and retention within academic healthcare environments.
The research draws upon data obtained from the Healthcare Professional Well-being Academic Consortium (PWAC) survey, encompassing the responses of approximately 18,000 physicians between October 2019 and July 2021. These respondents span 53 medical specialties, offering a diverse perspective on the prevailing sentiments within the academic medical community.
Shockingly, the study reveals that a substantial portion of academic physicians—32.6 percent—expressed a moderate or higher intention to leave their current institutions within the next two years. This intention was closely linked to burnout levels, as every incremental increase in burnout scores corresponded to a significant 52 percent rise in the likelihood of intending to depart.
Demographics played a role in this trend, with physicians aged 60 and older exhibiting a higher inclination to leave (40 percent) compared to their younger counterparts. While intention to leave was relatively consistent across genders, differences emerged among racial groups, with varying rates reported among Asian, White, and other racial backgrounds.
Notably, certain medical specialties witnessed heightened rates of intention to leave. Anesthesiology emerged as the field with the highest percentage of physicians looking to leave (46.8 percent), followed by gastroenterology, thoracic surgery, neurological surgery, critical care, and radiology. Conversely, specialties like nuclear medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neuroradiology, hospice and palliative care, and pediatric hospital medicine reported lower rates of intention to leave.
Burnout prevalence stood at a concerning 37.9 percent among the surveyed physicians, with disparities observed across age groups and racial backgrounds. Similarly, only 39.3 percent met the criteria for professional fulfillment, with differing rates among genders, age groups, and racial backgrounds.
The study also highlighted the nuanced relationship between burnout, professional fulfillment, and the intention to leave. For every incremental point in burnout scores, the likelihood of intending to leave increased by 52 percent, while a higher professional fulfillment score corresponded to a 36 percent lower likelihood of departure.
Furthermore, factors such as supportive leadership behaviors, peer support, alignment of personal-organizational values, perceived gratitude, COVID-19 organizational support, and Electronic Health Record (EHR) helpfulness were associated with decreased intention to leave. Conversely, higher scores in depression and negative impacts on personal relationships were linked to an increased intent to depart.
The study’s implications underscore the pressing need to prioritize initiatives aimed at addressing burnout, enhancing professional fulfillment, and promoting overall well-being among physicians. By recognizing and tackling these challenges, healthcare institutions can mitigate the growing turnover rates and alleviate physicians’ intentions to exit the workforce.
The study highlights the imperative need to address burnout’s impact on academic physicians’ intentions to depart. With burnout significantly influencing departure desires and professional fulfillment acting as a mitigating factor, interventions targeting well-being, workplace support, and organizational values are crucial. Fostering supportive leadership, and peer networks, and acknowledging the impact of external factors like the COVID-19 pandemic are key strategies. By prioritizing these initiatives, healthcare institutions can curb turnover rates, fortify physician satisfaction, and ensure the continuity of high-quality patient care within academic medical settings.