Burnout Isn’t Just a Physician Problem

NPs and PAs are often touted as the solution to the growing primary care physician shortage, but at what cost? Burnout impacts them, too.

The growing primary care physician shortage has put an overwhelming strain on doctors in the United States, often in the form of burnout. A combined workforce of nearly 400,000 strong, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants have been poised and ready to be, and often touted as, the most viable solution to the shortage. But at what cost? After all, NPs and PAs are not immune to burning out, themselves.

According to the International Classification of Diseases, which now classifies burnout as an occupational phenomenon, burnout is defined as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Those suffering from burnout often experience feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.

Last fall, the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants published the first report on national trends of burnout among PAs. The data revealed that 62.1% of PAs had enthusiasm for their work, while 21.4% reported some degree of cynicism, and 10.4% reported a low sense of personal accomplishment. The report also revealed that 12.8% had never left a position due to stress, but were considering quitting their current position due to stress, burnout, or a toxic workplace, and that 30% had quit once in the past due to stress. Another 11.7% of PAs had left more than one position due to burnout.

As for Nurse Practitioners, burnout in the nursing profession, as a whole, is well-documented. Nurses experience some of the highest risk and rate of burnout, with a third of all nurses in the U.S. reporting high levels of emotional exhaustion. Though Nurse Practitioners may outrank RNs, they seem to be experiencing similar levels of burnout. For instance, though the NP profession ranked #7 on U.S. News & World Report’s 100 Best Jobs list in 2019, it was also reported that NP experience above average stress and below average work-life balance.

Are you feeling burnt out in your role as an NP or PA? How do you combat work-related stress? Tell us in the comments below.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.