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Contempo Updates
September 25, 2002

Mid-Career Burnout in Generalist and Specialist Physicians

Author Affiliations

Author Affilliations: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn (Drs Spickard and Gabbe); and Legacy Health System, Portland, Ore (Dr Christensen).


Contempo Updates Section Editor: Janet M. Torpy, MD, Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;288(12):1447-1450. doi:10.1001/jama.288.12.1447

A study of US physicians showed that physicians in 1997 were less satisfied in every aspect of their professional life than those asked similar questions in 1986. They were dissatisfied with the time they have with individual patients and their lack of incentives for high-quality care.1 Similarly, a 1998 study revealed that two thirds of Canadian physicians have a workload they consider too heavy, and more than half stated their family and personal lives have suffered because they chose medicine as a profession.2 Dissatisfaction has been documented in several diverse physician groups, including primary care,3 surgery,4 infectious disease specialists,5 and anesthesiologists.6 The leaders of medical school departments are exposed to similar pressures.7 These recent articles highlight the growing discontent of physicians with the increasing complexities of the practice of medicine. Burnout, a term that has moved from colloquial speech into the social and psychological vernacular, describes this phenomenon.

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