Nearly half of New Zealand doctors have considered leaving medicine because of burnout, a survey has found.
A survey of 300 Kiwi doctors by the Medical Protection Society found half felt unable to take a break between procedures, and almost as many did not feel their wellbeing was a priority at work.
In the society’s report released on Wednesday, one doctor said: “I know I’m on the verge of burnout, but I can’t see any way out as 75 per cent of my department is in the same position”.
Burnout is characterised as mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, increased detachment and a decline in job satisfaction.
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Of the 300 doctors surveyed, 89 per cent said they did not have someone at work specifically responsible for staff wellbeing, and 40 per cent did not feel encouraged to discuss wellbeing at work.
Medical Protection Society president Professor Dame Jane Dacre said few other professions had the ability to make such a stark difference to people’s lives.
“But when I talk to doctors, I see increasing levels of burnout and it is clear that the sense of value that doctors have is being diminished by the environment they work in,” she said.
Burnout affects not just the doctors concerned, but also the wider team and crucially, their patients.
A report released by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists in November, Hospitals on the Edge, also warned that more than half of doctors were experiencing burnout, affecting the care they provide.
One doctor in the report said burnout “was going to become an epidemic”.
Another said they were passionate about health and wellbeing, but that was “very removed from my job today, so much so that I would leave general practice if/when I can figure out how to share my skills in a more fulfilling way”.
The problem was not unique to New Zealand, Dacre, a professor of medical education at University College London, said.
Action was needed to avoid doctors becoming “burnt out and disillusioned in ever greater numbers”, she said.
The Medical Protection Society recommended doctors receive training on the risks and consequences of burnout, including how to recognise it in themselves and others.
It said medical schools and postgraduate training organisations also had an important role to play in laying “healthy foundations” for doctors and other healthcare professionals during training.
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