The Reality of Physician Burnout and Depression: Urgent Calls for Action in Radiology and Beyond

Medscape’s report on physician burnout and depression, ‘I Cry but No One Cares’: Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2023, paints a desperate picture of the emotional status of physicians in nearly all specialties and builds on last year’s findings on radiologist burnout. It remains a crisis that threatens the profession and the statistics paint a picture of urgency. 

High Rates of Burnout for Sustained Periods of Time

Emergency Medicine physicians have the highest reported rate of burnout at 65 percent, which is striking because just five years ago only 45% of ER doctors reported burnout1. Radiologists round out the top ten specialties, with 54% reporting burnout, an increase over last year, when the survey showed that 49% of radiologists experienced burnout2. The other specialties in the top ten include: 

‘I Cry but No One Cares’: Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2023
  1. Emergency Medicine: 65%
  2. Internal Medicine: 60% 
  3. Pediatrics: 59%
  4. OB/Gyn: 58% 
  5. Infectious Diseases: 58%
  6. Family Medicine: 57% 
  7. Neurology: 55% 
  8. Critical Care: 55% 
  9. Anesthesiology: 55% 
  10. Radiology: 54% 

These feelings aren’t new. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents say they have been burned out for 13 months or more and the feelings are “pervasive and persistent”3. Many more female radiologists (65%) experience these feelings compared to 44% of males4. Burnout affects more than just work life; two-thirds of radiologists (67%) say burnout negatively affects their personal relationships5.

What’s Going On? 

We know that in order to maintain quality of care and patient safety we must protect the physical, mental, and emotional health of providers, which begs the question: how are these high rates of burnout allowed to be the status quo? 

Radiologists and other physician identify the same top four causes for their burnout6

  1. Lack of respect from administrators/employers, colleagues or staff: 60%
  2. Too many hours at work: 50%
  3. Lack of control/autonomy: 47%
  4. Too many bureaucratic tasks: 30% 

Providers also believe there are other contributing factors, namely7

  1. Insufficient compensation: 34%
  2. Lack of control/autonomy: 31%
  3. EHR’s: 25%
  4. Lack of respect from patients: 23%

Taken together, it’s a picture of providers who feel burned out, underpaid, and micromanaged with cumbersome technology and rude patients. It’s a perfect storm that threatens the availability of providers just when the population is aging and needing more care. 

It’s Not Just Burnout, it’s Full On Depression

Burnout significantly impacts performance and long term career sustainability. Depression impacts daily life and that’s an important distinction. Sixty-seven (67%) percent of respondents report feeling down, blue, or sad, (colloquial depression), and one quarter (¼) of physicians and radiologists report clinical depression, (depression that lasts some time and is not caused by a normal grief event or medical condition)8

Burnout is named as the leading cause of depression by 64 percent of respondents. 

Nearly half of physicians (47%) have not sought professional help to reduce burnout, but would consider it9. Thirty-nine percent said they have not sought help and will not consider it and 13% have sought help10

The taboo of depression and admitting it exists looms large for providers who say they can’t seek help because “depression says something negative about me” (51%)11. Forty-two percent (42%) say they worry people will think less of their professional abilities and 41% “fear” that the medical board/employer will find out12. Providers express great skepticism and mistrust of administration and colleagues saying; “Our medical board does not help doctors and nurses; they only punish and humiliate,” and “I don’t trust doctors to keep it to themselves”13

A smaller percentage of radiologists say they treat themselves for depression through meditation (26%), reducing work hours (21%) or speaking with administration about productivity pressure (13%)14

Is Burnout Changing Radiologists? 

Fifty-one percent (51%) of physicians and 61% of radiologists said burnout does not affect their patient relationships15. However, there are other areas where burnout is seeping in around the edges, and in a negative way16.*

  • I become easily exasperated: 32% of physicians, 23% of radiologists
  • I am less careful taking patient notes: 19% of physicians, 18% of radiologists 
  • I express my frustration: 14% of physicians, 6% of radiologists

*(Percentages do not add up to 100% because respondents could make multiple choices.) 

Take Steps to Combat Burnout and Staff Shortages

It’s imperative that healthcare organizations of all sizes take these skyrocketing rates of burnout seriously. It has long lasting effects that can impact patient care, quality and safety, and cause radiologists to leave a field that is already suffering from severe staff shortages. 

Protecting the health and wellness of providers is not a luxury, it is a requirement. It behooves healthcare organizations to take stock of work hours, productivity requirements, onerous EHR documentation, and staffing shortages. 

If we are to move into the future with a highly skilled workforce that delivers the best care to patients, then employers and partners must do everything in their power to find innovative solutions that will protect the mental, physical, and emotional health of essential radiologists and clinical providers. 


1-16: ‘I Cry but No One Cares’: Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2023 (  Leslie Kane, MA, Executive Director, Medscape Business of Medicine, January 27, 2023 

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