Fueling concerns about staffing shortages, Mass. doctors feeling burned out, survey finds



Chris Lisinski

Half of Massachusetts doctors surveyed have already or intend to soon cut back their clinical hours, and one in four plan to leave medicine altogether in the coming years, according to new data released Thursday by a leading industry group.

Fueling concerns about staffing shortages that have plagued the health care industry and many other facets of the economy, the Massachusetts Medical Society said its survey of more than 500 members found a majority “experienced symptoms that reach the threshold for burnout.” Nearly 27 percent of respondents said they have already reduced their clinical work, and another 24 percent said they are “definitely” or “likely” to do so by June, according to the report. And the survey found high chances of further hits to the physician workforce: 14.2 percent said they “definitely” will leave the field in the next two years, alongside 12.8 percent who said their forthcoming departure is “likely.” Signs of strain were stronger among certain demographic groups. About 63 percent of female doctors who participated in the survey showed symptoms of burnout, compared to 47 percent of male physicians.

The most common workplace stressors doctors cited were increased documentation requirements, a lack of available support staff, time devoted to prior authorization needs, non-medical administrators overreaching into medical decision-making and resource allocation, and turnover of staff. MMS President Ted Calianos said the survey results “are not wholly surprising nor inconsistent with what is happening across the country, but they are distressing.” “The scourge of physician burnout and compromised well-being among physicians and members of the health care team remains a threat to public health and patient care,” Calianos said. “The unprecedented stress placed upon health care workers and the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic expectedly exacerbated an already troubling situation.” Health care employers have been struggling with staffing issues for months.

Last year, the Mass. Health and Hospital Association estimated Massachusetts hospitals were about 19,000 full-time workers short.

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