Pandemic stresses physicians as they reevaluate careers, work-life balance – Healthcare Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The pandemic’s toll on the healthcare workforce is still unraveling, but physicians are reporting feeling less happy outside work than they did prior to the onset of COVID-19 as they work through stress, burnout and other challenges, according to a recent Medscape survey.
  • About six in 10 physicians reported being happy outside of work in Medscape’s latest survey, compared with 8 in ten prior to the pandemic.
  • About 60% of female physicians and 53% of male physicians said they would take a pay cut to have better work-life balance, the survey found.

Dive Insight:

In wake of the global pandemic, many workers  especially those on the front lines are reevaluating their relationships with work.

Physicians have struggled with hectic work environments, vaccine misinformation, adjusting to hybrid work models and other challenges, spurring them to rethink their careers, relationships and general wellbeing as the pandemic enters its third year.

All those factors are leading doctors to report feeling less happy outside work than they were a couple years ago, Medscape’s survey drawing on data from more than 13,000 physicians in over 29 specialties from June 29 to Sept. 26 of 2021 found.

Doctors are weary after witnessing COVID-19 related suffering and death, along with stressors at home including partners and peers not taking the pandemic seriously or not adhering to safety measures, Wayne Sotile, founder of the Center for Physician Resilience, said in the report.

Most physicians said they are spending time with family and friends, working on their hobbies, exercising, sleeping and eating healthy to maintain their happiness and physical health during this period. Just 9% reported going to therapy, the survey found.

When doctors feel their work-life balance is off, it’s important they find ways to restore energy and joy, Alexis Polles, medical director for the Professionals Resource Network said in the report.

Physicians should take a personal inventory of the three things most important to them in their lives and how they’re paying attention to them, “as those things change throughout a career,” Polles said.

The adoption of telemedicine is one major change doctors have adjusted to throughout the pandemic.

While a large majority of physicians spend 10 hours a week online at work, the number of physicians spending 21 or more hours a week online for work shot up from 2% last year to 15% this year, likely due to increased telemedicine use, the survey found.

At the same time, professional stressors weigh differently for male and female physicians.

Female physicians reported feeling more conflicted about balancing the demands of their medical profession and parenthood than male physicians, though 35% of physicians overall reported feeling that way.

At the same time, a greater percentage of male physicians said they have time to focus on their own health and wellness than female physicians.

Additionally, the majority of physicians are married or in committed relationships (83%) though that figure is higher for male physicians (89%) than female physicians (75%), the survey found.

It’s unclear how much the pandemic will spur healthcare workers to leave their jobs, though healthcare and social assistance workers had the second highest quit rate at 6.4% when 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While nurses and other frontline workers have more frequently reported burnout spurring them to consider leaving their jobs for other positions or leaving the profession altogether, physicians too are reporting higher levels of burnout than ever before, a recent survey from KLAS Research’s Arch Collaborative found.

That survey found the rate at which burnout is increasing accelerated sharply in 2021, especially from the second to third quarter as the delta variant took hold.