The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted physicians' experiences, leading to new challenges and increased levels of burnout. Initially, physicians' experiences were influenced by factors such as geography, specialty, and personal encounters with the virus. However, as the pandemic progressed, physicians faced additional difficulties, including staffing shortages, anti-science aggression, incivility, and moral distress. These factors have had a detrimental effect on professional fulfillment, contributing to a dramatic rise in burnout rates, which reached 63% in 2021.
Recognizing the urgency of addressing physician burnout, the American Medical Association (AMA) has taken the lead in spearheading a national effort to solve this crisis. The goal is to eliminate the dysfunction in healthcare by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care, thereby restoring professional fulfillment for physicians.
Professional fulfillment plays a crucial role in mitigating burnout. It encompasses the satisfaction and enjoyment derived from work, fostering engagement and motivation. On the other hand, when work lacks fulfillment and meaning, individuals can become disengaged and susceptible to burnout over time. Burnout further hampers professional fulfillment by perpetuating a cycle of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced productivity, leading to decreased satisfaction and fulfillment in work.
A survey conducted between December 2021 and January 2022 by researchers from prominent institutions, including Stanford University School of Medicine, AMA, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, revealed a significant decline in professional fulfillment scores. The scores dropped from 40% in 2020 to 22.4% in 2021. In line with these trends, the survey found that the percentage of physicians who indicated they would choose to become a doctor again decreased to 57.5% in 2021, down from 72.2% in the previous year. This decline reflects a broader trend observed over the years, with decreasing percentages since 2011.