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Study: U.S. doctors are 'burned out'

Doctors on strike gather and give information to the patients about the strike at Hospital Sao Jose entrance during the doctors strike in Lisbon on July 11, 2012.

In the U.S., our doctors are stressed out. "Burned out," actually, is a clinical term in a new study from the Mayo Clinic. It claims to be the first extensive look at burn-out and work-life balance among physicians. Thirty-eight percent of doctors are certifiably burned out -- compared to 28 percent of the general working public.

Dr. Tait Shanafelt is the lead author and a professor of medicine at Mayo. He says burnout is important to study because it's associated closely with quality of care. Doctors who show higher degrees of burnout make more medical errors. They are also more likely to seek early retirement and cut hours, which deepens the shortage of quality physicians at a time when the U.S. is trying to expand access to medical care. 

As expected, the study found that emergency room doctors had the highest rates of burnout. They're dealing with high-intensity, life-or-death situations throughout the day. However, the study also found that family physicians and general internal medicine physicians had among the highest burnout rates. "That's particularly concerning, since those specialties are really the front door of access to the medical care system for most people," Shanafelt said.

At least physicians continue to have sunny job prospects. Our Future Jobs-O-Matic feature shows that the profession is adding jobs and that the salaries for doctors and surgeons are among the highest in the U.S.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.
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