Burnout rife among senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand hospitals says report

An alarming new report shows the country's top medical specialists are struggling with burnout.  Photo / File
An alarming new report shows the country's top medical specialists are struggling with burnout. Photo / File

More than half the senior doctors and dentists working in New Zealand public hospitals are tired and exhausted on the job.

An alarming new study by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists has revealed the country's top medical professionals are battling high levels of burnout due to work, frustrations with management, intense and unrelenting workloads, under-staffing and onerous on-call duties.

The report, "Tired, worn-out and uncertain": Burnout in the New Zealand public hospital senior medical workforce", paints an alarming picture of specialists struggling to cope, especially those working in emergency medicine, psychiatry and dentistry.

The survey has found half of hospital specialists reported symptoms of burnout, indicating they were suffering high levels of fatigue and exhaustion.

It revealed women were more affected by burnout than men. Three out of five female specialists are experiencing symptoms, compared with 44 per cent of male specialists.

The situation was dire among female doctors in their 30s. Seven out of 10 said they were experiencing burnout. More than half attributed their state of health to work.

Association executive director Ian Powell described the results as extraordinary, and called on hospital chief executives to act.

"These results should concern the people running our public hospitals as much as they concern us," said Powell.

"It's not acceptable to have such a critical group of health professionals experiencing these levels of burnout. This survey tells us that burnout is rife among New Zealand's senior medical workforce."

Powell warned burnout posed serious consequences for patient care, medical errors, rates of staff turnover, and the personal health and job satisfaction of doctors.

Specialists candidly spoke about the toll meeting targets while treating sick patients was taking on their health.

"The inefficiencies and bureaucratic Kafkaesque nightmare slowly erodes your will to live," said one senior doctor.

"We have lost the enthusiasm that was always of being a doctor and being a team," said another.

Powell warned burnout posed serious consequences for patient care, medical errors, rates of staff turnover, and the personal health and job satisfaction of doctors.

The association had written to DHB chief executives this week to alert them to the burnout survey results and remind them of their obligations under the health and safety legislation.

It had asked to meet as soon as possible to discuss the findings and look for solutions.

- NZ Herald

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