United Nurses of Alberta is slamming Health Minister Tyler Shandro for suggesting staff vacations are causing emergency room problems. (Black Press Media files)

United Nurses of Alberta is slamming Health Minister Tyler Shandro for suggesting staff vacations are causing emergency room problems. (Black Press Media files)

Physicians were suffering burnout and then the pandemic made it worse, UBC study finds

Burnout prevalent among 68 per cent of doctors – likely a reflection of issue globally, says researcher

As vaccine rates tick towards herd immunity and governments reveal plans of a post-pandemic summer filled with travel and gatherings, nurses and doctors trying to help COVID-19 patients are likely looking towards some serious rest.

A new study from the University of British Columbia, released Friday (June 11), is shedding light on physician burnout and the concerning need to address it.

Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion and depersonalization—which is a lack of care about the work. It also affects workers’ sense of personal accomplishment.

Researchers from UBC’s faculty of medicine surveyed 302 internal medicine physicians from two Vancouver-based hospitals between August and October 2020, and found burnout prevalent among 68 per cent of doctors. A further 20 per cent said that they had either considered quitting the profession or already left a position.

ALSO READ: B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Pre-pandemic, physician burnout was already on the rise before tripling the odds in the past year and a half, according to Dr. Nadia Khan, research lead and medical professor.

Increased bureaucracy – doing more so-called “non-physician work” – the sheer number of patients being seen, and the increased number of extended weekend and evening shifts have taken a toll on physicians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers suspect.

“I think that this issue is not unique to just these two hospitals. It is widespread. I would say global,” Khan said. “It’s also not just amongst physicians but likely affecting other healthcare workers.”

From those surveyed, burnout was prevalent among 71 per cent of women compared to 64 per cent of men. It was found to be highest (74 per cent) among younger physicians between 36 to 50 years old.

WATCH: New COVID-19 testing machine takes load off B.C.’s virologists and labs

Women were two times more likely to report emotional exhaustion and feeling less personal accomplishment, while visible minority physicians had 1.8 times higher odds of feeling low personal accomplishment in comparison to white respondents.

So why is burnout such a concern?

“We know physicians who are burned out are more likely to make medical errors regardless of work unit safety measures,” Khan explained, adding that physicians have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.

It also comes at a cost to tax payers, with early retirement and tired physicians reducing clinical hours, equating roughly $200 million, according to a separate study.

The findings highlight the need to focus more on mental health and the working conditions in the healthcare industry, the researchers concluded.

“Physicians don’t have time to work on solutions to make patient care better when they are just barely getting by,” Khan said.

“We need to create a sustainable workforce because a more sustainable and thriving healthcare system means better quality of care for patients.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusUBC

Just Posted

Chemainus Indigenous Peoples Weekend organizer Connie Crocker. (Photo submitted)
Chemainus Indigenous Peoples Weekend online June 19-21

Event’s been in the planning stages since February without knowing COVID implications

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Julie Nygaard’s By Moonlight Raven Flight is one of the photo-artist works in her show Through My Eyes – A Visual Journey, which will be featured at Rainforest Arts through August. (Photo submitted)
Photographer-painter Nygaard featured at Rainforest Arts

Real images enhanced through digital means to create compelling art

Filming of The Baker’s Son in Chemainus. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Bread-making brilliance and mediocrity the recipe for movie ingredients

Willow Street on the map as a prominent location in The Baker’s Son

The return of Community Policing will be a welcome addition by residents. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Return of Community Policing in the works

Volunteers being sought and coordinators to be announced soon

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts was found dead near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Most Read