Physician Burnout: Is the quality of healthcare declining?

Physician burnout is a rising issue in healthcare, with many practitioners experiencing high stress levels, weariness, and burdensome workloads. This may lead to reduced performance, decreased job satisfaction, and a higher chance of medical errors. In addition to having a detrimental impact on healthcare providers, physician burnout can adversely influence patient care, which is why addressing this issue is crucial. 

As defined by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, physician burnout is a long-term reaction to stress. It can be characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. In 2021, the American Medical Association reported that 63% of physicians nationwide were experiencing symptoms of burnout, a 25% increase from the year before. But what caused this drastic change? Many reasons contributed to the difference in these rates, one of the greatest ones being the COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2020 article by the Association of American Medical Colleges, 87% of emergency physicians claimed to be under more stress than usual because of the burden the epidemic had brought on. This same article reported that “physicians die by suicide at twice the rate of the general population” because of the intensity of their careers. However, 45% of the doctors polled said they were not comfortable getting the required care.

Working in the healthcare field is already mentally and physically rigorous. Plus, with all the extra demands the pandemic created, the job becomes unmanageable and starts to consume all aspects of your life, which explains why so many physicians are beginning to opt out of the career. The California Medical Association has stated that 1 in 5 doctors in the United States plan on leaving their current practices sometime within the next two years. Physicians tend to experience more anxiety, depression, somatization, and insomnia compared to the average person, and, as stated earlier, COVID-19 has only worsened these conditions, leading to increased suicide rates. This especially applies to healthcare physicians in emergency and hospital medicine, as these fields tend to be particularly demanding, with stress rates nearing 60%. 

And now, on top of our current physicians leaving, this profession is also beginning to seem less appealing to the next generation. Burnout is now beginning to discourage the youth from careers involving medicine. This has led a generous portion of the youth to reconsider their options, which makes perfect sense. The Association of American Medical Colleges reported that in 2023 “… the depression rate among medical residents at 29%…while the rate among nonphysicians was 8%…,” highlighting how much more demanding this profession is. Despite this, in this day and age, many less demanding careers earn the same salary as a doctor.

Overall, physician burnout is a serious issue that must be addressed. After graduating high school, physicians complete an additional 10-14 years of schooling, which is extremely tiring. And, after COVID-19, this stress has only intensified. At this rate, without change, the quality of healthcare will begin to decline. 

Works Cited

Berg, Sara. “These 6 Physician Specialties Have the Most Burnout.” American Medical Association, 29 Aug. 2023,

“Measuring and Addressing Physician Burnout.” American Medical Association, 3 May 2023, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

“How Long Is Medical School in 2023.” International Medical Aid, 21 Oct. 2022,

“Physician Burnout.”, July 2017,,of%20sense%20of%20personal%20accomplishment.

“Study Finds COVID-19 Pandemic Has Driven Physician Burnout to an All Time High.” Cmadocs,

Weiner, Stacy. “Out of the Shadows: Physicians Share Their Mental Health Struggles.” AAMC, 28 Mar. 2023,