Disparities in Family Physician Burnout Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2022
Anticipated completion date:
July 2024

Burnout is commonly understood to manifest as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and feelings of reduced accomplishment. Studies of physicians have found that burnout can lead to premature exit from the profession as well as severe emotional and physical health consequences, including suicide. Burnout not only has negative consequences for health care professionals but also can result in lower quality of patient care, of particular concern during the COVID-19 pandemic when demand for health professionals has outstripped supply in many areas. High levels of burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic have been documented among health professionals, particularly women and persons from underrepresented groups. This study will examine how burnout has changed from 2019 through 2021 among family physicians as well as how these patterns vary by rural/urban geography, other sociodemographics, and practice characteristics to identify physicians most in need of education and practice interventions to foster resilience and alleviate burnout.

Using data from the American Board of Family Medicine, this study examines the following questions:

  1. How have levels of self-reported burnout among rural vs. urban family physicians changed since before the COVID-19 pandemic and at different stages of the pandemic?
  2. How have rural and urban patterns of physician burnout varied over time by other demographic and background characteristics, including age, gender, race/ethnicity, international medical graduate status, osteopathic or allopathic degree, and region of the country?
  3. How have patterns of burnout varied over time by practice characteristics, including type of principal practice site (e.g., Rural Health Clinic, Indian Health Service, Federally Qualified Health Center, managed care practice, independently owned practice, etc.), practice size, and scope of practice?