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Purpose: Burnout (BO) is a serious phenomenon affecting US physicians. Female physicians, now accounting for a larger share of the workforce, are thought to experience higher levels of BO in some situations compared with their male counterparts. The current review aimed to systematically examine extant literature on physician BO as it relates especially to the female physician.

Methods: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guided search of 4 databases yielding empirical studies with relevant findings regarding female physician BO, published during the time period 2010-2019.

Results: A total of 43 studies were included in the current review. Both male and female doctors have higher percentages of burned out doctors, with a third or more of each group indicating BO in each of the studies examined. These higher levels of BO remained regardless of where physicians worked, their clinical specialty, workloads, or age. However, the review supports the notion that for women doctors, there is generally a higher likelihood of experiencing BO compared with male doctors, particular with respect to the emotional exhaustion dimension of BO.

Conclusions: BO is important for both female and male physicians; although women doctors may experience it to a greater degree. Women doctors will benefit from talent management approaches by health care organizations that recognize their greater tendency to BO compared with men. These approaches should be aimed at ameliorating the factors that give rise to feelings of emotional exhaustion in particular. Additional research is needed to better understand the full extent to which physician gender plays a role in BO.


About Timothy Hoff:

Timothy HoffPh.D. is Professor of Management, Healthcare Systems, and Health Policy in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University, in Boston, Massachusetts.  He is a Visiting Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Green-Templeton College, and an Associate Scholar at the Said Business School, University of Oxford.  He has also served as the Patrick and Helen Walsh Research Professor in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.  Before going into academia, he worked for a decade in hospital administration and as a health care consultant.  He received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy, both from the University at Albany.  Dr. Hoff studies health workforce issues (e.g. resilience), health care innovation, health care quality, primary care transformation, and clinician behavior; and is an expert in the use of qualitative methods.  His recent book, Next in Line:  Lowered Care Expectations in the Age of Retail- and Value-Based Health, is published by Oxford University Press.  He has another book on the transformation of physician careers being published by Johns Hopkins University Press in early 2021.