Northeastern University Study Examines Gender Differences in Physician Burnout Rates

A study by researchers at Northeastern University in Boston finds that women physicians tend to “burn out” at a faster rate than their male counterparts.

Researchers examined data from 43 studies on physician burnout conducted between 2010 and 2019. The results showed that women physicians experience burnout more often and to a greater degree than men. In almost 90 percent of studies that compared burnout by gender, female physician samples reported higher burnout prevalence, particularly in the form of emotional exhaustion. “This suggests that women doctors may detach from their patients slower than men do, and therefore become emotionally fatigued faster,” explains Timothy Hoff, a professor of management, healthcare systems, and health policy at Northeastern University and lead author of the study.

Dr. Hoff and his team of researchers also looked at burnout rates across different fields of medicine and found that “regardless of specialty, whether that’s surgery, or primary care, or working in an academic medical center, women still experience a higher level of burnout compared to men.”

Dr. Hoff suggests that female physicians would benefit from management strategies that recognize their greater propensity toward emotional exhaustion and acknowledge their specific needs by providing flexible work schedules or on-site child care, for example. Moving forward, he thinks these types of considerations will be crucial in healthcare workplaces, especially since women now make up over half of all medical students in the United States. “Women are transforming the medical profession,” Dr. Hoff says. “We need workplace interventions that serve them better.”

The full study, “Burnout and Physician Gender: What Do We Know?” was published in the journal Medical Care. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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