Which Specialties Experience the Most Burn Out?

Since becoming a nurse practitioner more than five years ago, I have felt a little burnt out from time to time.  Sometimes the feeling lasts a few days until I realize the burn out is not a result of my job but rather a combination of my career along with life’s other commitments.  Other times I realize my job is taking too much out of me and it’s time to move on or at least make a change.

Working in the emergency department I had a serious case of burn out last summer.  Working more than full-time, constantly switching from day shift to night shift and missing events with friends and family for shifts in the ER were dragging me down.  Fortunately, my employer was understanding (I may or may not have cried in my boss’s office…) and I was able to cut back my hours a bit immediately remedying the problem.

In my experience, burn out depends on a few key factors in the workplace.  Certain bosses cause bun out faster than others and certain clinics and hospitals wear NPs down more quickly.  Flexibility to make time for friends, family and a vacation or two infinitely increases my job satisfaction.

A recent survey addressed burn out among physicians looking at which specialties cause the most burn out.  The survey defined burn out as “loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment”.  Although the survey polled MD’s, I believe the trends are similar among nurse practitioners as well.  What did the survey find?

The seven specialties reporting the most burn out were: emergency medicine, critical care, family medicine, anesthesiology, general surgery, internal medicine and OB/GYN.  Women reported higher rates of burn out than men.  Physicians stated that bureaucratic tasks, spending too many hours at work and present and future impact of the Affordable Care Act as top reasons for feeling down about their jobs.

The least burnt out specialties included: pathology, psychiatry, opthalmology, pediatrics, rheumatology, dermatology and radiology.  Physicians taking more vacation days reported lower rates of burn out.

Working in healthcare is demanding.  Many providers work all hours of the night, all days of the week and spend their time working with people at low points in their lives.  While healthcare can be rewarding, it can also prove overwhelming as well.  How do you think your specialty ranks when it comes to burn out?  Do you and your colleagues feel satisfied with your profession or is there room for improvement in your work environment?