The prevalence of burnout in general practice

The prevalence of burnout in general practice


GP numbers appear set to fall, not only because fewer doctors are opting to take up the specialty training but also, it seems, burnout is likely to take its toll on those already practising.

According to a recent Healthed survey of over 600 practising GPs, almost half (45%) admitted to feeling burned out by their work at least once a week. In fact, about one in 9 GPs (10.7%) said they felt burned out at least a once a day. Previous research has linked professional burnout to mental illness, inability to work and even addiction and suicide.

While the survey didn’t investigate the possible causes these current feelings of burnout among doctors, it would be reasonable to assume the added pressures related to the COVID pandemic were, at least, a contributing factor. However, it certainly wasn’t simply related to excess lockdown restrictions as there wasn’t a wide variation in burnout prevalence between the states which, as we know, had varying restrictions imposed to curb the virus.

For instance, while 86.8% of poor Victorian GPs surveyed reported some degree of burnout, the prevalence of burnout among GPs from Queensland wasn’t that much lower at 84%, despite having a lot more freedoms than their southern colleagues.

Whatever the cause, the high rate of burnout among GPs certainly doesn’t paint a promising picture for the future general practice workforce.

And as for practice nurses, the survey findings suggest the situation is even worse. While the number of practice nurses surveyed was much smaller than the GP cohort, the prevalence of burnout was significantly higher. Almost 60% of practice nurses (58.14%) reported feelings of burnout at least once a week, and overall 87.21% reported some degree of burnout.

Quite confronting statistics aren’t they?

Such high rates of burnout are bound to have consequences, not only for the individuals concerned but also for the profession as a whole. One has to hope that increased awareness that burnout is an issue will lead to greater commitment to finding a solution – for all our sakes.

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