January 23, 2024

Burnout-battling physicians often work on vacation

Editor's Note: 

Lack of quality vacation time explains part of the reason why so many physicians are experiencing burnout, according to a study published January 12 in Jama Network Open. Specifically, the study found that 7 out of 10 participating US physicians did at least some work on a typical vacation day, while 6 in 10 took less than three weeks of vacation.

Involving 3,024 participants, the cross-sectional study was conducted between November 20, 2020 and March 23, 2021. Highlights include:

  • A significant percentaged19.9%of respondents reported taking 5 or fewer days of vacation. An even larger proportion (59.6%) reported taking 15 days or fewer.
  • Concern about finding someone to cover clinical responsibilities and financial concerns were among the factors identified as contributing to doctors taking less than three weeks per year.
  • Among respondents who reported working on a typical vacation day, 33.1% said patient care and other professional tasks occupied at least half an hour.
  • Less than half of surveyed doctors said they had full electronic health record inbox coverage, which study authors cite as a potential means of reducing pressure to work on days off.

“System-level efforts to ensure physicians take adequate vacation and have coverage for clinical responsibilities, including EHR inbox, may reduce physician burnout,” the researchers conclude.

JAMA (healthcare publication) Network logo

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