Michigan’s physicians and health care providers are burnt out: What can we do to help them navigate pandemic pressures?

December 14, 2021

A physician walks a black tight rope towards a large messy tangle symbolizing burnout.Michigan’s latest COVID-19 surge is among the worst in the country, and if there’s one thing we know about COVID’s effect on our nation’s health care system, physician and health care provider burnout will soon follow. 

Physician burnout is a concern for everyone. It’s tied to lower-quality care, reduced clinical productivity, and increased physician turnover. In the general population, we also know that stress can negatively impact physical and mental health. 

But since the first COVID-19 lockdowns in March of 2020, physicians have experienced a number of pandemic-related stressors. They include concerns about contracting or transmitting COVID-19, implementing rapidly changing state and federal guidelines, and unstable revenue streams. Additionally, physicians worried about safely and securely implementing telehealth for their patients. 

In this brief, the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT) compares the prevalence of burnout among Michigan physicians before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, CHRT identifies which physicians are most likely to report COVID-19 related burnout. 

At the conclusion of this brief, CHRT highlights potential programming to address this problem. This includes ensuring physicians have access to convenient and confidential mental health support.

Key Findings

  • Among Michigan’s primary care physicians, the prevalence of self-reported symptoms of burnout increased from 31 percent in 2018 to 40 percent in 2021.
  • 27 percent of all Michigan physicians agreed or somewhat agreed that COVID-19 and the pandemic have made them feel burned out and consider leaving medicine.
  • Michigan’s emergency medicine and urgent care physicians were especially likely to agree that COVID-19 and the pandemic have caused them to feel burned out and consider leaving medicine.
  • Michigan physicians who frequently discussed COVID-19 with their patients were most likely to report burnout.