Mayo Study: Widespread Burnout Among New Doctors

ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — A Mayo Clinic study finds that “burnout” and financial debt are widespread among doctors-in-training.

The survey involved more than 16,000 internal medicine residents and provides a disturbing diagnosis.

“Burnout and reports of low levels of quality of life were very common,” said lead researcher Dr. Colin West.

He said more than half of graduate medical students reported symptoms of burnout. Equally troubling was a finding that burnout — and high student debt — caused lower test scores.

“One theory is that the chronic stress that leads to burnout is inhibiting learning,” West said.

Researchers hope documenting the problem of burnout among doctors-in-training will lead to solutions.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Steve Murphy Reports

  • Disgusted this time

    If I were an English Major instead of a Civil Engineer, I would have called myself Disgusted,

    • I am leaving now...

      No, my spelling is embarrassing.

      • FrailGirl

        I’m an editor, and I wouldn’t have a job if everyone, including SMEs, were perfect! :)

        • FrailGirl

          oops! if everyone “was” perfect! eek!

          • Herb Slojewski

            “were” perfect is correct, friend, since we are using the word “if” at the opening…if I were you I’d quickly grab a Strunk & White…nuck nuck

            • Jill

              “Were” is in the subjunctive mood, actually.

              • Mark@Up_in_Smoke

                If I “had been” ? from the area….does this work fer ya LOL

          • Patriot

            “were” is actually correct for the tense you used.

            • To Be or not to Be??

              To Was on not to was, that is the question:

              Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
              The slings and arrows of those who prefer ‘Weres’ instead of ‘was’s’,
              Or to take arms against a sea of gramatical Purists?
              And by opposing end them?….

              I don’t believe that Shakespear would care a wit about a ‘was’ or a ‘were’! :)

              As it were. :0

              See ya and have a good day!

  • FrailGirl

    My dear friend is a nurse, not a doctor, but the hours are brutal. She worries that in her colleagues’ exhausted state they will make critical mistakes. She worries because she cares, not because she’s whining. And this was a survey that asked for new doctors’ opinions — so naturally they got the same kind of story that these folks would tell their family and friends. For those of you who endured long hours, didn’t you every now and then comment on being tired and sometimes overburdened or overwhelmed? And, more important, thank you very much for enduring and for your service. It’s a giving profession, for certain.

    • Joshua Arguien

      I agree. My sis in law is a new nurse…and the procedures they have to follow have more to do with limiting liability, than actually curing patients. The whole medical system is so frightened of regulation and tort repercussions, they’re unable to practice properly.

    • Timothy Frohlick


      Your dear friend is in danger of burnout too. Nurses today remain in nursing for less than four years.

      Tim Frohlick

    • ***

      Completely agree with you! By the way, your post was a breath of fresh air. It was so nice to read a thoughtful and positive post.

      Have a good day FrailGirl. :)

  • kubrick

    I would just add to the comment I made that overall I am personally happy because I am in a subspecialty field.

    My primary care and surgery friends are pretty depressed in practice though. A close surgeon friend of mine committed suicide due to a bad surgical outcome. Another friend from medical school had a psychotic break during residency. I can actually go on much longer with this.

    On the other hand, my friends at the investment banks are close to retiring and are not even 40. I’m not saying that complaining is productive but if you think the massive disparity between these industries won’t make a difference in the long run to our society, you are wrong; there will be a massive shortage of smart doctors, in my opinion, as they realize the stress is not worth it.

  • wally

    We have a doctor and medical school shortage. This is the result. We only have 133 medical schools, we need 4 times as many. Medical schools, in fact all colleges, should start acting like businesses. They must grow enrollment to meet demand, even build new campuses all over the country. But instead of growing, they just increase tuition every year. This needs to stop.

    • kubrick

      this will never happen for obvious reasons as the government regulates this. as it is, they are trying to make the bar higher for students. do not think that there are even close to enough american undergraduates who can effectively be good doctors in this environment, medicine has become incredibly complex, they should focus on trying to find the best doctors possible. unfortunately, as our educational system is weak, many of these doctors will continue to be imported

      • ACEDoc

        Are you suggesting that the doctors being “imported” are better educated? Our Medical Schools are almost exclusively full of American undergraduates, there are just more residency spots than available graduates. I think there are plenty of undergraduates who could handle the ri5gid academics and work of being a physician, I just think less are going to be willing to spend a few hundred thousand and several years of their life to take a career filled with high burnout and ever-increasing financial disincentives.

    • M4

      FWIW right now the main bottleneck is residencies, NOT medical schools. There are more applicants than there are slots – although fewer US graduates than slots, the foreign and offshore grads more than make up the difference.

      And yes, I would say that foreign grads who make it in are very smart docs!

  • Greycoat

    Don’t worry! Obamacare will fix everything! /sarcasm off
    What we all need to do is go not after Big Oil, who get less per gallon that the government does, but BIG ED (education) No one even questions the tuition fees and costs of colleges and universities which year end and year out continually spiral upward each year. Oh wait Leftists making huge profits at universities are immune from attack.

  • lukuj

    You think they are burnt out now! Just wait until Obamacare kicks in. Those that haven’t retired or gone to strictly private concierge practice will be even more burnt out as they have more and more patients and are allowed less and less time to see them and less and less freedom with how they are allowed to treat them because of costs.

  • Frew

    Taking care of patients demands a lot of time. You can’t let people put their heels up without detracting from the care. You can’t have three shifts of doctors without increasing the costs.

    This is all part of a fad that says that residents are over worked and should be worked less. Pretty soon they’ll complete their training without ever having to see a patient.

    They have already cut down the hours residents work tremendously.

    Because of the increasing restrictions put on the amount of time residents work it has gotten to be more practical to dispense with resident training and hire hospitalists, PAs or NPs. These residency directors will schedule residents for our clinics and then the resident shows up and tells you that she can’t work in the clinic that day because she was on call the night before. The residency still expects to be paid for the resident’s service in the clinic that day, though, and the staff has to take up the slack. To heck with that.

    • kubrick


      i have older cousins ranging from 50 down to 25 in medicine as well as myself, mid-30s. this debate has played out many times at family reunions.

      what we have learned is that a) residents work way less than they did back then & b) medicine 20 yrs ago was prehistoric, way less treatments existed, & things were much simpler. my older cousins said they actually slept overnight on call in the “call rooms”. i graduated and never even saw the call room. i had 85-100 pts on night shift on good weeks and close to 150 on the toughest weeks. residency back then may have been more physically grueling but as the older docs told us there was not much to do back then besides give potassium and aspirin. things have changed. it is more complex, it requires significant critical thinking to choose between the # of drugs out there today versus ’70s or ’80s!

      r u telling me that in the 1970s, the doctors were managing 150 pts on their overnight shifts? please!

    • kubrick

      “The residency still expects to be paid for the resident’s service in the clinic that day”

      Last I checked the salary was around $45-55k per year for an 80 hr work week as a PGY1-5. keep in mind these are people with 8 yrs of post high-school training. this equals less than $15 before taxes. the govt subsidizes the hospitals and clinics with a pretty large chunk of $ of which they keep the profit after paying the residents income. do u really think if u get 100 hrs per week out of the residents for a $40k salary, medicine will improve!?

    • harry pate

      My son started his residency this July.

      His Hospital director told him that he is not supposed to work more than 72 hours a week. If his schedule requires him to work above the lawful limit, he should report the problem to this director.

      That was what this director all the new residents.

      My son is currently working 95 hours every week.
      He is not alone working long hours above the legal limit.
      Who is going to take lead by reporting the abuse and invite negative marks on his / her career?

    • dan

      Frew- Lighten up- I’m a recently minted doctor who went through 3 yrs residency and then 3 yrs fellowship. We worked 36 hour shifts. Many of said shifts were without sleep. It is a horribly taxing but enriching and rewarding experience. You learn by doing to an extent, but often times the residents are scutted to no end. In one month of an ICU rotation, both of my young/robust colleagues developed bleeding gastric ulcers. I suffered, but doing so gave me a skill set that allowed me to be able to effectively heal. But it was overkill. Oh yeah, and for “free time,” most residents try to make a few extra bucks working uncomfortably as moonlighters. I myself wanted no part of reading when I got home because life was work.

      Cutting down of the hours is a good thing- it’s proven to save lives. You can’t argue. The studies have been done. Shorter shifts and more rested trainees = less mistakes. End of story.

  • Ron Wagner

    It is way past time that we draw on our military medics. Give them the credit and jobs that they deserve, and let them go right into medical positions that they have already been trained to do. They could quickly become registered nurses and Nurse Practitioners or Physicians Assistants. Registered Nurses can become Nurse Practitioners also. Physicians need to be relieved of the sole responsibility for taking care of all the decisions related to primary care. This will also lower the cost of primary care.

    • Timothy Frohlick


      Some nurses can become advanced practice/nurse practitioners. I would say that ten to twenty percent of nurses have the smarts to be NPs. Five out of fifteen members of my Physician Associate class in the USAF PA Program went on to become MDs or lawyers. PAs back East get $150,000.00/year in remuneration as do NPs. Please don’t confuse PAs and NPs with medical assistants. I was a medical corpsman/assistant before becoming a PA.

      Tim Frohlick, ret. Physician Associate, ret. USAF

      PS PAs don’t belong to physicians. PAs work as part of a team to help the patients. Sometimes PAs tell physicians how to practice medicine. I have done so many times during the over 20 years that I served as a PA. Physicians get angry when you tell them how to practice. Sometimes the PA testifies against the MD in a court of law if it is warranted for the safety of the patient.

  • Tom

    I don’t kknow about the rest of you, but I really don’t want the guy operating on my brain worrying about paying his bills and navigating his way through mountains of government forms.

    • Family-trust

      Neurosurgeons in my small town make well over a million $ a year. Long careers at let’s say 2 mil a year. 60$ million in 30 years conservatively. Girlfriends on the side may get expensive, but not that expensive.

      • Neurosurgery resident

        That is not a conservative estimate. Most neurosurgeons make less than a million a year and I know of only a handful that might make 2 million. Neurosurgery is lucrative, but if you want to rake in the cash, go into banking.
        Neurosurgery resident

        • Timothy Frohlick

          Dr. Neurosurgery Res.,

          You forgot to tell Family-trust that a couple of $10,000,000.00 lawsuits can erase much of the profit in a 30 year period…assuming that the neurosurgeon operates that long.

          Thank you for choosing a demanding field.


  • davec

    This is all deliberate on the part of medical MANAGEMENT. work nurses to death, pay them nothing, THATS why theres a nurse shortage.

    and HOW CONVENIENT, suddenly these scam 1-2 year schools are turning out “medical assistants” that cant spell ass for that matter. Utterly useless.

    But they are a cheap apparent replacement for a qualified RN or LPN.

    This doctor overwork is nothing new either, I dont know a practitioner that isnt grossly overworked and agreed with a poster above, there is no excuse for over working them except for management to profit from O.T.

  • Howard Feinski

    i ask you to look at both sides of the spectrum.
    Side one: A kind and caring missionary doc gently looks over the shoulder of the resident (in a mission field hospital) and nudges her in the right direction, winking at small errors and guiding her into the position of a responsible, adept clinician of the first order. There’s stress from e long hours and feeling inadequate, but it’s a gentle, helpful stress which does not lead to suicide.
    The flip side: A phalanx of cold bureaucratic snobs methodically critique the tiniest of gestures without regard to the patient, the staff, nor their wives. They delight in making up new rules to layer onto the old, almost daily, and enforce them with swift brutal justice, without a shred of mercy. They set a goal of disciplining ten to twenty per cent of their residents monthly. The bulk of their regulation knows no bounds, and they are joined by govt agents, insurance reviewers, hospital lackeys, peers, lawyers, and most important, vulture staff nurses looking for blood.
    Which side of the spectrum do you want if you are the student?


    Actually I finished residency 5 years ago and am still paying back 200k in loans. I have no regrets regarding my debt because it has allowed me to do something that I love. I knew of the rigors of medical school and residency prior to beginning and made a conscious choice to pursue a medical career because it was my dream. Too many phsyicians have gone into medicine for the worng reasons such as money or parental expectations. It is not for everyone. There are plenty of professions that demand less of your time and are fruitful.

    Frew i completely agree with you regarding resident work hours. Residents work less and therefoer see fewer patients and their associated pathologies. The training is therefore poorer and physicians clinical skills suffer as a result.

    • kubrick


      since u graduated 5 yrs ago don’t u fall into the same camp as the residents u r talking about having subpar skills?


    Kubrick, instead of having an intellectual discourse you insult me. That demonstrates your own insecurity. As stated above i completed 2 residencies and resident work hours were instituted at the University of Florida where i trained in 2005. I completed internal medicine in 2003 and therefore fortunately was not affected. My emergency medicine residency was not affected as ER is shift work and less call. If you ” didn’t see the call room” as you claim I wouldn’t entrust you with the care of anyone much less someone i cared about. You obviously were not exposed to enough pathology. You would be pretty fortunate to have me standing over you if you were wheeled into my emergency room. You completed one very weak residency. I completed TWO very intensive ones. Grow up.

    • kubrick


      ok first i apologize! this was not meant to be an insult. in ny, the rule has been here since around 2000 & many programs implemented it before then. so when u said 5 yrs ago i genuinely assumed u had the same 80 hr work-week rule in place so i couldn’t understand why you would attack the system u were trained under.

      second i “didn’t see the call room” because it is not possible to take a 5 minute nap on call where i trained. if u started at 5pm, u were up & on ur feet until 7am, 6 days on 1 off. my statement was meant to say that the older generation were working in a time period where there was less rigorous work overnight. it was common to be able to sleep or take naps during your 24-36 hr shift, unlike now where u r working every minute.

      3rd, ER is “shift work” as u say. so why do expect that the ER docs should be in 12 hr shifts and not work 24 hrs straight? again the point i’m making is that running the floors right now as a resident is brutal (at least when i trained), it’s not easy and u really shouldn’t have people up after a 14 hr shift with multiple codes, 6 days straight. yes, they violate the rules.

      a lotta of my peers complain about how bad it was when we had it compared to now when there are PAs, etc. i agree it has gotten easier but i’m not going to blame the residents for creating this. it was created due to medical errors and the death of a resident in ny state whose father was a senator. there is a limit to being macho, we’re not training for a boxing match.

      finally, “You completed one very weak residency” – i did a 8yr neurointerventional program. even had i done a 3 yr psych program, all this shows is that u r quick to jump to conclusions…

      • kubrick

        i also forgot to say this is a public site, not a medical site.

        why would u want to spread the idea that doctors are blind to safety issues? it’s hard to fight that battle when the docs who are involved are willing to treat their own colleagues like dirt?

        i don’t really hear alot of people saying that doctors in new york under 40 are all horrible because they were poorly trained

  • Olddoc

    As a doc who has been out practicing nearly 20 years, I too say man up. The kids who are entering medicine these days are wimps. They have well defined restrictions on the number of hours they can work, are generally lazy, and frequently self-centered. I’m usually at the hospital well after the residents have gone home (or more typically out to the bar). Walking done the halls of the hospital, all I hear is how they have plans to go to a particular club or sporting event. How dare they have to take care of a sick or crashing patient.

    • Dr. Dave

      And while you are at the hospital where are your wife and kids. We all sacrificed for our patients to the detriment of our loved ones and ourselves. A better balance can be achieved through skill in the business side of the practice. We learned clinical skills well, but no one every helped educate us in the business aspects that affect our lives more than any patient’s disease.

    • CORE

      hey docs, haven’t you heard? kids today lack empathy, even if they have an MD next to their name. young people today are the most spoiled, laziest, self-centered, coddled, counseled, and protected beings in the history of humanity. several decades of liberal/socialist teachers in public schools telling kids how special and wonderful they are, parents who never had to go to war or serve in the military, people who have never had to endure any kind of real suffering or hardship, breed WEAK people. the good news is, the coming economic collapse and eventual world war, will weed these losers out the minute their type II diabetes meds run out and their i-phone batteries go dead.

    • AnotherMD

      “We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control.”

      — Inscribed on an Egyptian tomb appx 4000 BCE

      Apparently some things never change. The older generation always had it tougher, trained harder, overcame longer odds, sacrificed more and achieved greater mastery than the lazy ingrates who followed after.

      • gason

        Agree, I trained in a time where you endured the long hours and hard work to accomplish your goal of becoming an MD. Times have changed, I feel that physicians are not respected like they once were and a lot to do with it is the bureaucrats that are telling physicians how to practice from the government and insurance companies. It seems medicine is the most highly regulated profession in this country you are spending enormous amounts of time filling out paper work worried about what new BS guidelines you have to follow and who is going to sue you for nothing. ALL THIS CONTRIBUTES TO BURNOUT! A majority of physicians over 50 are quitting or would like to quit medicine if they could. What is coming is a major shortage of physicians, hope yours in the future is able to speak English!

        • Ilene Little

          I think it is harder to be stay “fired-up” and committed in the face of the pressures that are contributing to doctor burnout. Times are changing; it’s not the same end-game for doctor lifestyles as it used to be — in fact it’s all up-in-the-air and unknowable, which is mentally unsettling. And, I think patients need to be concerned about about how that all trickles down to quality of care. I’d like to hear your feedback as an MD to the article “Patients Will Suffer From U.S. Doctor Burnout” (

        • Olddoc

          Point well taken but that is no excuse for a lack of worth ethic and shoddy care. At the large teaching hospital where I practice there is not a single U.S. trained physician in the Internal Medicine program and depending on the residency, nearly every student is foreign trained. Americans are turning away from the profession of medicine in ever increasing numbers. With the aging population and dire shortages of physicians, we are headed for a disaster of epic proportion. Congressional misanthropes are now trying to micromanage the 16% of GDP in order to raid the coffers to pay off their union goons and special interests. In the end, it is the patient who suffers. Our future is spelled out in the British National Health Care System and it ain’t pretty.

          • Dr. Doom

            Its their own fault. Physicians in America are spokes mouths for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. They have no ethics.

            According to the latest WHO research, American healthcare isn’t even in the top 30 countries in the world.

            • Olddoc

              OK Dr. Doom, by all means please travel elsewhere for your health care. Just today, I read another report how CT’s/MRI’s are being limited in Britain. Great strategy – don’t look, don’t find, don’t treat.

          • Timothy Frohlick

            Dear Old Doc,

            Resomation or alkaline hydrolysis will be available at subsidized prices once the elderly are euthanized. I agree with everything you say. I was a PA-C from
            1979 to 2006. I noticed an increasing selfishness and viciousness in both patients and physicians as the years rolled by.

            Keep up the good work,

            Tim Frohlick Capt. ret. USAF, Physician Associate

    • Jake

      MAN UP, people, that’s what is told to the rest of us serfs, like the nurse who steals Fentanyl from patients in the OR.

  • Olddoc

    On another vein, unless people are dedicated to medicine, i.e. entering the field because of altruistic motivations, they are sadly mistaken. From a purely financial perspective, they are much better off considering other careers. Friends of mine who went into business or even working for the fire department are now retired and/or enjoying their second homes/careers. As a doc, I endured years of grueling training, horrible pay, huge indebtedness, and long hours. While my friends were off boating, playing golf, and enjoying time with their families, I was working. Now, I’m in my mid fifties and have about as much wealth as my friends did twenty years ago. Would I have traded any of it? Possibly, but knowing what one is in for ahead of time is, in my opinion a pre-requisite for entering medicine.

  • alison

    The hours are a lot less now than they were 20 years ago. Residents are limited to an 80 hour work week. They are called residents because they used to reside in the hospital.

  • R.C.

    Knowing how much debt is required to become a physician, knowing how much garbage they deal with, all the studying that’s required, the long hours, the difficult home and social lives endemic to the profession, the bad and worsening pay . . . there is no way I would even consider becoming a physician. I became a pharmacist instead. I only work 10-12 hours a day, and when I go home to my wife, I’m genuinely sorry for the residents and students I round with, because I know they have to stay at the hospital all night.

  • alison

    I know lots of ER residents. It is interesting to see how the residents today live compared to how they lived 20 years ago. Most drive new cars, they live in upscale neighborhoods and they take fancy trips. Maybe if more lived on the cheap until they actually made the big dollars they wouldn’t be so stressed from debt.


    Kubrick, Okay I understand where you are coming from. I guess we were both a little quick to jump to conclusions. However there is another side to your argument about work hours. That is pateint care. With the institution of the Bell commision and it’s subsequent limitations, there is an increase of patient signouts. This is where things get missed. Patient care suffers. My mentor who runs the MICU saw a noted decline in clinical skills in the residents that had to comply with an 80 hour work week as compared to those who graduated prior to their institution. Personally, my sister in law was very upset that her IM residency was limited by these restrictions.

    • kubrick

      u r right about the signout situation. that is a big disaster. but the volume on the floors is massive. we had 3 interns overnight for about 200-300 pts. i don’t know if this is how it used to be hwne people did overnight 36 hr calls.

      i was involved in looking into this as a senior, what i think is that the population of u.s. and hospital overnight stays is WAY more than 20 yrs ago, with more complicated decision trees, and also the legal expectation that u cannot make a mistake.

      ultimately the heat from these regulations is not related to residents complaining but hospital regulators, who get pressure from the legal department. this is even more true if the hospitals are self-insured, as they are in ny. a $15 million case to the hospital due to residency error is tough to defend in public now.

  • rich

    no dodge ball in school–coaches can’t yell at players and residents can’t work 36hr shifts every 3-4 nites–the more you see the more you learn–maybe the marines will adapt this –lets see the enemy is chasing us but I am too tired –wait I will just call time out and take a nap –they must be tired as well–I actually had to know what to do for patients with having to look eveerything up on an i pad–another older M.D.

  • rich

    that is without having to look up everything–my typing is poor

  • jonbatt1

    its because we re running a 9 to 5 medical system in a 24/7 society.
    If we spread the patients over a 16 hour day we lessen the cost per visit and more para-medicals to work..


    Can medical errors occur when physicians are tired? The answer is of course “yes”. Interns and residents are supposed to be supervised when working. The upper level residents and attending physicians need to make sure that the decisions the lower level resident make are sound. This is how physicians learn to make good decisions when they are tired. There are many days in private practice that Im tired. Sometimes it was because I was up with a sick neonate at the hospital all night and sometimes it was one of my 3 kids up vomiting all night. Learning how to work when you are tired is an important skill that many younger physicians lack. Also with the reduction in hours during residency I think they need to extend most residencies by 1-2 years so that medical residents get the same exposure that those of us who trained before the work hour restrictions were put in place.

  • curious

    What are these hours doing to the homefront? I’m not in medicine but if I worked those hours every week I’d be missing out on a lot of my family’s life not to mention what my wife felt.

  • Captain Obvious

    Is’n it a great thing to know that these burnt-out sleep-deprived doctors will be there to help you when YOU get into an auto accident?

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