Survey Reveals High Burnout Rates Among Physicians in Multiple Sclerosis Across the United States


A recent survey reported a high prevalence of burnout among physicians treating patients with multiple sclerosis, highlighting long work hours as one of the key factors.

Mary R. Rensel, MD, FAAN, ABIHM  (Credit: Cleveland Clinic)

Mary R. Rensel, MD, FAAN, ABIHM

(Credit: Cleveland Clinic)

New findings from a small sample survey presented at the 2024 Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) Annual Meeting, held May 29 to June 2, revealed high rates of burnout and job stress among physicians treating patients with MS in the United States (US), while providing key insights into the sources of stress and burnout in the field.1 The hope is that these insights can help facilitate systemic changes to support MS physicians to offer the quality care for their patients.

Among 115 (85%) of the total respondents (n = 136) who completed the survey, 50% responded that they were burned out or beginning to experience burnout, and 52% of respondents reported great job stress. According to the Mini Z scoring system, 74% of respondents cited electronic medical records (EMRs) as a source of frustration. In the survey, 61% reported a high degree of EMR-related stress, 60% responded that time for documentation was marginal or poor, and 59% noted that time spent at home on EMR was moderately high or excessive.

“Physician burnout (long-term job-related stress leading to exhaustion, cynicism, and detachment from job responsibilities) is a well-recognized and documented crisis facing the health care system in the United States,” lead author Mary R. Rensel, MD, FAAN, ABIHM, assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and director of Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis and Wellness at the Mellen Center of the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues wrote.1 “The burnout rate observed was higher than that reported in Medscape Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2024 [44%]. EMR-related stress and long work hours were the most common reasons for job stress.”

READ MORE: Switching to Cladribine Safe and Effective in Older Persons With MS, Real-World Data Show

Top Clinical Takeaways

  • The burnout rate among physicians treating patients with MS is alarmingly high, with 50% of respondents experiencing burnout or signs of burnout.
  • EMR-related stress and extensive work hours are significant contributors to job stress among these physicians.
  • Despite high job satisfaction, nearly half of the surveyed physicians have considered leaving the field because of burnout and related issues.

Investigators aimed to identify the prevalence of burnout in MS providers in the United States and recognize the risk factors associated with burnout using the provided responses from the survey. The survey contained 20 questions which included intel from the respondents’ the Mini Z 3.0, demographics, professional information, work environment, and support. For context, the survey was originally sent out to 3951 physicians who prescribed 3 or more disease-modifying MS therapies for patients over a 12-month period.

Additional findings showed that survey participants reported that they worked an average of over 50 hours per week. Notably, 27% of the respondents noted that they worked more than 60 hours per week. Despite 80% of the participants reported they were satisfied with their current job, 49% of them noted that they have considered changing careers or leaving the field because of burnout or related issues in the past year.

“Although work satisfaction remained high, it was concerning that nearly half of the physicians treating patients with MS were planning a field change because of burnout and/or related issues. More research is warranted to improve the quality of life of MS providers, which will reduce attrition and further enhance patient care,” Rensel et al noted.1

Click here for more coverage of CMSC 2024.

1. Rensel M, Sullivan AB, Zeplin-Pratt E, Terry-Leonard G. United States–Based Quantitative Survey on Physician Burnout in Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology. Presented at: 2024 CMSC Annual Meeting; May 29-June 2; Nashville, TN. Abstract LB13
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