Mid-Career Burnout in Physicians

Spickard A, Gabbard G, Christensen JF. Mid-career burnout in generalist and specialist physicians: definitions, risk factors and prevention. JAMA 2002;288(12):1447-50.

Anderson Spickard, Jr., M.D.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nashville, TN

Steven G. Gabbe, M.D.
Vanderbilt Medical Center
Nashville, TN

John F. Christensen, Ph.D.
Legacy Portland Hospitals
Portland, OR

Contact Information:

Anderson Spickard, Jr., M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Medical Director, The Center for Professional Health
1107 Oxford House
Nashville, TN 37232-4300
Phone: 615/936-0678
Fax: 615/936-0676


A study of US physicians in two time periods showed that physicians in 1997 were less satisfied in every respect of their professional life than those asked similar questions in 1986. They were dissatisfied with the time they have with individual patients and their lack of incentives for high quality care. (1) Similarly, a 1998 Canadian Medical Association study revealed that two-thirds of Canada's physicians have a workload they consider too heavy, and more than half say their family and personal lives have suffered because they chose medicine as a profession.(2) Dissatisfaction has been documented in several diverse groups of physicians, including primary care (3), surgery (4), infectious disease specialists (5) and anesthesiologists. (6) The leaders of medical school departments are subject to similar pressures. (7) These recent papers highlight the growing discontent of physicians with the increasing complexities of practice and teaching of medicine. 'Burnout,' a term that has moved from colloquial speech into the social and psychological vernacular, adequately describes this growing phenomenon.