Thefound that only 18% of neurologists were very happy at work, and 41% overall identified themselves as burned out. Among reasons for burnout, 61% reported mounting bureaucratic tasks as their top reason, with 40% listing spending too many hours at work.
Coping strategies varied, with isolation from others topping the list at 46%, followed by talking with close friends and family and exercise tied at 40%.
Less than half (46%) claimed there was no impact on patients, but most (65%) don’t intend to seek professional help for depression and/or burnout and haven’t done so in the past. Similarly, 48% reported it’s unlikely they’d participate in a workplace program – in fact, only 33% said they would.
A closer look at the numbers
Over 15,000 physicians across 29 specialties completed the 10-minute survey in the summer of 2019; 62% were men and most of the group were Baby Boomers (ages 55-73), then Generation X (ages 40-54), and lastly Millennials (ages 25-39). Of the specialties surveyed, neurologists scored lowest in the happiness-at-work category, with only 18% saying they were happy. Neurologists also scored lowest in happiness outside of work (44%). Half the neurologists surveyed said they were burned out, which was slightly more than the surveyed group of physicians in general. The biggest contributors to burnout were bureaucratic tasks, too many hours at work, and lack of control. Most coped by isolating themselves, talking with family members or friends, exercising and sleep. About 65% did not seek help for burnout or depression. The main reasons were being too busy, preferring to deal with it themselves, or feeling that the problem was not significant enough to warrant intervention.
A majority of the neurologists surveyed (70%-80%) are married and 85% say they have a good marriage. Almost half of neurologists take 3-4 weeks of vacation and a third take 1-2 weeks. Neurologists surveyed drive mostly Hondas and Toyotas; 4% drive Teslas and 3% drive Porsches. One third of neurologists exercise two to three times per week and 10% exercise daily. Only 20% have a drink more than four times per week.
Looking for solutions
“It is a bit distressing to see how many neurologists are unhappy at work and unhappy even outside of work,” said, clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Many neurologists claim to be burned out and a small percent report depression. Most do not seek help, do not take care of themselves well enough, and do not vacation or exercise enough, added Dr. Rapoport, who also is a past president of the International Headache Society and is editor in chief of Neurology Reviews.
Dr. Rapoport believes that some studies about this situation should be done by the American Academy of Neurology and other subspecialty organizations (for example, the American Headache Society), and results should be published in the neurology and subspecialty journals. Further work in this area should include suggestions for rectifying the situation and encouraging neurologists to seek help and improve their lifestyle. “I think that one of the ways that headache specialists have avoided burnout and depression is by focusing on one subspecialty area and engaging in different types of activities, such as seeing patients in the office and hospital, giving lectures, traveling to meetings, writing papers, and balancing their professional and personal lives. It appears that we need help as a profession, and we had better help ourselves to get it.”