Resource Library

Measuring physician burnout

As the national physician burnout rate continues to rise, many physician executives want visibility into how physicians are faring at their organization. The challenge is that there’s no single “perfect” measure for physician burnout—and getting a meaningful response rate can be time and resource intensive.

As you determine the right assessment strategy for your organization, use the three questions below to inform your approach.

1. Is now the right time to measure physician burnout?

Measuring burnout requires a significant resource and time investment. To determine whether measuring burnout at your organization is an immediate need—or whether national data makes the argument on its own—review the considerations in favor and against formally surveying for physician burnout.

burnout graphic

To determine whether now is the right time to measure burnout at your organization, consider whether you have a dedicated staff member to analyze the data, executive commitment to act on survey results, and an urgent need to prioritize or tailor ongoing interventions.

Before launching a burnout survey, consider using qualitative options to assess whether you need to conduct a formal survey. For example, create a listening forum or perform executive rounds to hear directly from physicians about their top concerns.

2. How will you survey physicians?

If you choose to launch a burnout survey at your organization, we strongly advise that you:

    1. Add burnout questions to the end of an engagement survey to reduce survey fatigue.
      Before selecting a burnout measure, consult with your engagement survey vendor to see if they offer a supplemental burnout bundle that can be added to your existing survey.
      If you are not planning on running an engagement survey soon or your vendor doesn’t offer supplementary burnout questions, consider using a standalone option. Use the table below to compare popular burnout survey measures.

Download Overview of Burnout Measures

Preview the survey questions:

    2. Supplement quantitative measures with qualitative input from physicians to contextualize the results.
      For example, include optional qualitative response boxes throughout the survey to gather more detailed feedback and questions. As you review the results, consider convening focus groups to provide insight into the root causes of burnout at your organization and create targeted action steps.

3. How do you encourage candor and participation?

In addition to the basic principles of survey design and implementation, there are considerations that are important to account for when measuring physician burnout. An often-overlooked way to boost response rates is visibly (and quickly) acting on physician feedback from previous surveys or focus groups. Before you launch a survey, ensure you have visible and widespread executive commitment to act on the results and a team member with protected time to administer the survey and analyze the results.

Use the tip sheet below to make sure physicians are aware of your efforts to measure burnout and feel comfortable sharing candid feedback with your team.

Download Tip Sheet

Want to measure how Covid-19 has impacted burnout?

Check out the American Medical Association’s two free surveys to help hospitals and health systems monitor the impact of Covid-19 on frontline staff.

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