20% of physicians take less than 1 week of vacation a year

About 20% of physicians took less than one week of vacation in the last year, according to a Jan. 15 report from Medscape based on a study published in JAMA Network Open. 

When physicians did take time off, 70% reported working to handle patient-related tasks anyway. 

Burnout was found to be more likely among physicians who work during their time off to respond to electronic health messages from patients. 

The study concluded that physicians working on days off is "a marker of inadequate staffing, suboptimal teamwork, and poorly designed coverage systems. Simply allocating people a number of vacation days is not enough," Tait Shanafelt, MD, chief wellness officer at Stanford (Calif.) Medicine and study co-author, told Medscape.

Physicians suffer more burnout than any other U.S. workers, according to the report. Researchers for the study looked at a survey about vacations that received 3,024 physician responses. 

Of the respondents, 40% took more than 15 vacation days in a year, 40% took six to 15, and 20% took five days or fewer. 

Fewer than half said that their EHR inboxes were covered while away, and 70% worked while on vacation, with 15% working an hour or more daily. 

Emergency physicians were the least likely and anesthesiologists were the most likely to take at least 15 days of vacation per year. Additionally, women were more likely than men to work 30 or more minutes a day on vacation.

Physicians over 65 were more likely to take more vacations than those under 35. The study also linked lower burnout rates to taking more than three weeks of vacation per year. 

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