Physician Burnout

Physician Burnout by Specialty 2024: Top 10 Medical Specialties with Highest Burnout

July 5, 2024
5 min read

Physician burnout is a pervasive issue impacting various medical fields, with burnout rates fluctuating by specialty. It is characterized by a spectrum of symptoms including emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment.

Recent data highlights that certain specialties are more susceptible to high levels of stress, which can lead to increased rates of burnout amongst healthcare professionals.

In this article, we'll examine the prevalence of physician burnout by specialty, identifying which fields report the highest rates and exploring the trends emerging in 2024.

Burnout by Medical Specialty: TL;DR

  • Physician burnout varies across medical specialties, with certain fields exhibiting higher rates due to stress factors inherent in those practice areas.
  • Burnout can significantly impact physicians' mental health and job performance, making the topic critical for the healthcare community.
  • Emergency Medicine, Hospital Medicine, and Family Medicine consistently appear among the specialties with the highest burnout rates. Reasons include the high volume of patients, the severity of conditions treated, and the extensive hours required.
  • Financial remuneration does not necessarily correlate with lower burnout rates as even well-compensated specialties like Radiology face significant stress.
  • Factors contributing to physician burnout typically include excessive workload, administrative burdens, and insufficient personal time, underlining the complex nature of this issue across different medical fields.

The Problem of Physician Burnout by Specialty in 2024

Physician burnout has emerged as a significant issue within the healthcare industry, presenting a multifaceted challenge in 2024.

Distinct specialties report varying levels of stress, influenced by unique demands and work environments.

In fields like emergency medicine and critical care, physicians experience intense pressure due to the life-threatening nature of the cases they handle. Challenges such as patient volume and emotional toll contribute to the heightened burnout levels. In contrast, specialties with more predictable workflows, such as dermatology, report lower rates.

Medical professionals cope with various stressors, ranging from excessive bureaucratic tasks to the increased complexity of patient cases. Findings reference billing issues, reimbursement pace, and deteriorating patient health as considerable contributors to job stress.

Healthcare organizations are beginning to acknowledge this pressing issue, with strategies being implemented to target burnout. Professional support systems, workflow optimization, and mental health resources are being cultivated as part of a comprehensive approach to mitigate burnout risks among physicians.

How Is the Physician Burnout Rate by Specialty Measured?

Physician burnout rates by specialty are often assessed using structured surveys and questionnaires that aim to capture various dimensions of burnout.

One widely recognized tool is the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), which measures emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of personal accomplishment.

Specialty-specific burnout rates are determined by surveying individual physicians across various specialties. Key metrics used include:

  • Emotional Exhaustion Score: High levels can indicate burnout.
  • Depersonalization Score: Measures a sense of detachment from patients and work.

The survey responses are then quantitatively analyzed to report burnout rates.

These rates not only account for the prevalences within each specialty but may also factor in the intensity of symptoms reported.

Specialized surveys, such as the Medscape survey, may focus directly on medical professionals, providing insights specific to health care industries.

To enhance accuracy, researchers often ensure a representative sample of physicians from each specialty participates. Additionally, trends over time are important, hence longitudinal studies are valuable in capturing changes in burnout rates, often highlighting systemic issues or the impact of external factors like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top 10 Medical Specialties with Highest Burnout

Recent studies have highlighted an alarming rate of burnout among physicians in various specialties.

Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.

The following data represents medical specialties that reported the highest levels of burnout:

1. Emergency Medicineโ€

This field reports one of the highest stress levels due to its high-paced, high-acuity environment.

2. Internal Medicineโ€

Physicians in internal medicine face complex patient needs and long hours.

3. Family Medicineโ€

The breadth of knowledge required and the emotional labor involved contribute to burnout.

4. Obstetrics and Gynecologyโ€

The demands of erratic schedules and the critical nature of the work can be draining.

5. Pediatricsโ€

The emotional toll of working with sick children and their families contributes to stress.

6. Hospital Medicineโ€

Hospitalists deal with high patient volume and severity.

7. Neurologyโ€

The complexity of cases and chronic care management is challenging.

8. Critical Careโ€

Intensive care environments are associated with significant emotional and physical stress.

9. Anesthesiologyโ€

High responsibility and the pressure of surgeries contribute to burnout.

10. Oncologyโ€

Managing palliative care and terminal diagnoses can be particularly straining.

Physician Burnout Rates by Specialty Chart

Physician burnout is a condition characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. The rates of burnout vary significantly across different medical specialties.

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Specialty Burnout Rate (%)
Emergency Medicine 62-65
Hospital Medicine 59
Family Medicine 51-58
Pediatrics 51-55
Nephrology 49
Ob/Gyn 53
Oncology 53
Radiology 51

Data Source:ย American Medical Association

Emergency medicine reported the highest burnout rates among physicians, with 65% of emergency doctors experiencing burnout. Close behind were specialties like internal medicine and pediatrics. Other specialties such as urology, neurology, nephrology, and family medicine also saw high rates of burnout, each with about half of their practitioners affected.

Conversely, specialties like public health and preventive medicine reported lower levels of burnout. This chart reflects a critical aspect of the medical profession that may influence career choice, job satisfaction, and patient care.


What Are the Lowest Burnout Medical Specialties?

  • Dermatology: This specialty often affords a more controlled work environment with predictable hours.
  • Pathology: Lower patient interaction and more regular hours contribute to reduced stress levels.

Depression can correlate with burnout. Specialties with lower reported burnout typically exhibit lower depression rates.

What Are the Most Stressful Medical Specialties?

  1. Emergency Medicine: Known for its high-stress environment, with 65% of physicians reporting burnout.
  2. Internal Medicine: Where 60% of physicians have experienced burnout.
  3. Family Medicine: Close behind, with a 58% burnout rate.

What Doctors Are the Most Overworked in the US?

  • Emergency Medicine Physicians: They face constant high stakes and erratic schedules.
  • Hospitalists: Hospital medicine physicians contend with long shifts and inpatient care challenges.
  • Family Physicians: Often providing a wide scope of care, family physicians deal with extensive paperwork, diverse patient needs, and a high volume of patients.

Overwork contributes significantly to burnout, with the need for appropriate work-life balance being crucial.


Updated on:

July 5, 2024

Published on:

July 5, 2024

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