The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the happiness, wellness, and lifestyles of many segments of the population, but especially those in the health care field, including gastroenterologists.
The newly releasedexplores gastroenterologists’ level of happiness in their personal and professional lives and how they maintain their mental and physical health.
Prior to the global pandemic, 8 in 10 (80%) gastroenterologists said they were “very” or “somewhat” happy outside of work, similar to physicians overall (81%).
But as the pandemic has worn on, feelings have shifted, and there are clear signs of stress and strain on those in the health care field.
Now, the percentage of gastroenterologists who say they are currently “very” or “somewhat” happy outside of work has dropped to 60%, about the same as physicians overall (59%).
Buried in paperwork
In 2021’s report, 42% of gastroenterologists reported burnout; that’s risen to 47% this year.
When it comes to burnout, gastroenterologists remain in the middle range of burned-out physicians.
Perhaps not surprising given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout rates are highest among emergency medicine and critical care specialists.
About half of gastroenterologists (52%) report being more burned out now than during the initial quarantine months of the pandemic, similar to physicians overall (55%). About 4 in 10 (39%) said their burnout was the same.
Female gastroenterologists report burnout at a greater rate than their male colleagues – 57% versus 46%.
“There’s no question that women have reported far more role strain during the pandemic than men,” said Carol A. Bernstein, MD, a psychiatrist at Montefiore Health System and professor and vice chair for faculty development and well-being at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.
“Often women assumed more of the childcare and home-schooling responsibilities in their households. As [a] result, we know that more women dropped out of the workforce. Also, past studies indicate that women are more likely to report feelings of burnout than men,” Dr. Bernstein noted.
The volume of bureaucratic tasks is the main driver of gastroenterologist burnout, similar to that for physicians overall. Lack of respect from colleagues and more time devoted to electronic health records were also selected as major factors in this year’s report.
Gastroenterologists’ top ways to quell burnout are reducing their hours on the job (24%), changing workflow or staffing to ease their workload (23%), and taking advantage of meditation or other stress-reduction methods (18%) – similar to physicians overall.
Roughly one-third (34%) of gastroenterologists feel that their personality type contributes to their burnout, similar to physicians overall. Six in 10 gastroenterologists (60%) say burnout affects their relationships, similar to physicians overall (68%).
Seeking better work-life balance
More than half of gastroenterologists (57%) said they are willing to take a cut in pay in order to achieve a better work-life balance or have more free time – similar among physicians overall (55%).
About 16% of gastroenterologists reported clinical depression (severe depression lasting some time and not caused by grief), while 71% reported colloquial depression (feeling down, blue, sad).
About half (53%) of depressed gastroenterologists said their depression does not have an impact on relationships with patients.
Among those who saw an impact, the major behaviors they reported included being easily exasperated with patients (44%) and feeling less motivated to take patient notes carefully (20%).
To maintain well-being, gastroenterologists often choose to spend their time with their loved ones (59%), do the things they enjoy (58%), exercise (57%), get plenty of sleep (42%), and eat right (35%).
Perhaps not surprisingly, more gastroenterologists were happy with their work-life balance before the pandemic than now (70% vs. 44%). The same holds for physicians overall.
Before the pandemic, 22% of gastroenterologists reported being unhappy with their work-life balance. That has risen to 39% this year.
Most gastroenterologists are currently in a committed relationship, with 90% either married or living with a partner, a somewhat higher percentage than physicians overall (83%).
About 83% of gastroenterologists say they are in a “very good” or “good” marriage. This is down somewhat from the 2021 report (89%).
Nearly 6 in 10 gastroenterologists have partners who do not work in medicine. This is similar to the proportion among all physicians.
Findings from Medscape’s latest happiness, wellness, and lifestyle survey are based on 13,069 Medscape member physicians (61% male) practicing in the United States who completed an online survey conducted between June 29, 2021, and Sept. 26, 2021. Most respondents were between 35 and 64 years old.
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