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Anxiety, Frustration Linked With Burnout in Health Care Workers

June 03, 2020
Debora Goldberg
Debora Goldberg, PhD

Health care professionals with higher levels of anxiety and frustration were more than twice as likely to report workplace burnout, compared with those with lower levels of anxiety and frustration, according to a study of primary care professionals published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Moreover, primary care physicians reported burnout at double the rate of other health care professionals in their practice settings.

Researchers surveyed 1273 healthcare professionals from 154 small- to medium-sized primary care practices in Virginia. Using the Change Diagnostic Index, they assessed healthcare professionals’ behaviors and attitudes following organizational and technological change.

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“It is important to understand how healthcare professionals respond to these changes and if certain groups are more likely to experience burnout and why,” said Debora Goldberg, PhD, an associate professor at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. “This is critical due to the tremendous amount of change taking place in the healthcare industry, projected physician and nurse shortages, and most recently the extraordinary responsibilities placed on them during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Burnout was reported by 31.6% of physicians, 17.2% of advanced practice clinicians, 18.9% of clinical support staff, and 17.5% of administrative staff, according to the study. Burnout aside, high levels of anxiety affected all health care professional groups, and providers had significantly higher anxiety scores than all other health care professionals.

Physicians with increasing anxiety and withdrawal had more than triple the likelihood of reporting burnout compared with those who did not experience high levels of anxiety and withdrawal, researchers reported.

“This is not just a physician problem,” Dr. Goldberg said. “These findings tell us that we need to prioritize understanding and addressing clinician burnout at a system level and at a local level. The human cost as well as significant physician shortages expected in the future make this a critical public health concern."

—Jolynn Tumolo

References

Goldberg DG, Soylu TG, Grady VM, Kitsantas P, Grady JD, Nichols LM. Indicators of workplace burnout among physicians, advanced practice clinicians, and staff in small to medium-sized primary care practices. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2020;33(3):378‐385.

Hawkins D. Primary care physicians experience more burnout and anxiety than other health professions [press release]. Fairfax, Virginia: George Mason University; May 20, 2020.

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