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Many democrats rejoiced when the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but a new survey reveals that many doctors likely curled up on a gurney and took a nap.

The new healthcare law will provide insurance to millions of people, which means millions of new patients. But nearly 50 percent of physicians who responded to a survey are already burned out, according to a Mayo Clinic study in which participants responded to Maslach Burnout Inventory statements like:

  • I feel frustrated by my job;
  • I feel I am working too hard on my job;
  • I feel emotionally drained from my work;
  • I feel burned out from my work; and
  • I feel like I am at the end of my tether.

The 22 statements are intended to identify “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (treating patients as objects rather than human beings) and low sense of accomplishment,” according to USA Today.

Of the 27,276 doctors who were asked to participate, only 26.7 percent responded. Still, physician and lead author of the study Tait Shanafelt told reporters that the number of exhausted doctors is higher than the 1 in 3 result he anticipated. He’d also predicted that surgeons would rank highest. Instead, that tier belongs to ER doctors, neurologists, family doctors, and internal medicine doctors who prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases in adults.

So your doctor is tired, what does that mean? According to Mayo Clinic researchers’ review of other studies, it could mean personal problems and early retirement for the doctor; it could also mean medical errors like surgery mistakes for you.

The Mayo Clinic’s results are about double what physician Mark Linzer reported in his own study of doctors’ job satisfaction in the 1990s.

“A lot of [the problem] was the work environment itself,” he said. Linzer believes doctors just need a little help. “When you start expanding the numbers of people who are caring for a patient, that helps a doctor and patient a lot,” he said.

So what do you think? Can you empathize with your doctor’s exhaustion? How do you think the influx of new patients will affect your ability to schedule an appointment or the amount of time your doctor gets to spend with you during an appointment?

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