Recent studies have found a high rate of burnout in family physicians, young physicians, and females in particular. Female family medicine residents are now 55% of trainees. A study of all recertifying American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) Diplomates found females more likely than males to report symptoms of burnout at the beginning and ends of their careers, with the highest rates occurring in females under 40 years of age. The survey of residency graduates 3 years out showed that 44% of females met typical criteria for burnout. Other research suggests workplace factors are associated with burnout, and that younger physicians are less likely to report burnout if they practice full-scope family medicine. Many hypotheses exist regarding factors contributing to burnout in females, yet no published studies explore these hypotheses. There is similarly little known about interventions aimed at preventing burnout in women or in helping them recover. Many interventions currently focus on individual wellness, but early research and general consensus suggest that focusing on practice and health system factors.

The Sustaining Women in Medicine (SWIM) project began as an ABFM Foundation funded collaboration between the Illinois and California Academies of Family Physicians, the Robert Graham Center, and ABFM, with a three phased study aimed at understanding the factors contributing to burnout in female family physicians and what interventions may help curb or eliminate burnout in this group. To read more about the study and the results, explore the links below.

Key Findings:

  • Only 8% of physicians surveyed reported taking no personal steps to address burnout. Male and female physicians reported similar types of organizational support aimed at physician wellness; yet 20% reported that their organization did not provide any type of well-being support.
  • There are gendered differences in physician responses to burnout. Female physicians were more likely to reduce work hours/go part time and to use domestic help; males were more likely to spend more time on hobbies.
  • Needing more time was a major theme that emerged from the interviews. Female physicians felt that systems that supported more time with patients, more flexible schedules for physicians, more time to work on non-clinical activities such as teaching and more time away from work without penalties were steps organizations could take to help curb burnout.

SWIM Publications

Gender Differences in Personal and Organizational Mechanisms to Address Burnout Among Family Physicians

SWIM Presentations

SWIM Monographs

Coming soon

Other Gender Equity Related Projects and Publications

Burnout Among Family Physicians by Gender and Age

Family Medicine's Gender Pay Gap

Matricentric Feminism in the Time of COVID-19: An Exploration of Women Physicians at the Intersection of Mothering

Family Physician Income Disparities by Race and Gender

Female Family Physicians Are More Racially Diverse Than Their Male Counterparts in Federal Sites

Has Female Authorship in Family Medicine Research Evolved Over Time?

Trends in the Gender Ratio of Authorship at the Robert Graham Center

Gender Concordance of First and Senior Authors in Family Medicine Journals

Gender Differences in Reported Weekly Work Hours Among Family Physicians

Increasing Share of Practicing Female Family Physicians, 2010-2020

Gender Pay Equity Monograph: Coming soon

Know Your Value Monograph: Coming Soon