Why Well-being

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Your health before all else.

Health care has dominated much of the news for years. Even so, one aspect of it often goes under-acknowledged: The health care system does not just affect your patients, it affects you.

More and more, family physicians report feeling dissatisfied in their profession, and disconnected from their purpose. We know you face more challenges than ever in delivering quality patient care. Regulation burdens, documentation mandatories, operational policies, practice inefficiencies, and a culture of physician self-sacrifice all get in the way of serving the patient.

While the cause is multi-layered, the result of so much stress is clear: physician burnout and poor patient care.

Defining Burnout

Burnout “[is] a psychological syndrome in response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”1

The subject of burnout is of critical concern to the AAFP because family physicians suffer from significantly higher rates of burnout than physicians in most other specialties.2,3

  • Nearly two-thirds of family physicians experience at least one element of burnout.
  • Female family physicians suffer burnout more than their male counterparts.
  • Early and mid-career physicians are at greatest risk.

Our Mission

Clif Knight, MD, witnessed physician burnout first-hand in his roles as a residency director and then as a hospital director, and made it his mission as AAFP Senior Vice President for Education to work toward reversing the disturbing trend.

Our Approach

The AAFP believes nothing is more important than physician well-being.

With AAFP Physician Health First, the first-ever comprehensive initiative devoted to improving the well-being and professional satisfaction of family physicians, we are working at every level to help put your well-being first, so you can stay passionate about your purpose: providing quality patient care.

“Burnout is the problem. The system is the cause. We are the answer.”

— Clif Knight, MD, FAAFP, AAFP Senior Vice President for Education

The Family Physician Ecosystem

With Physician Health First, the AAFP takes a holistic view of the factors affecting physician well-being, and addresses them from five points of entry:

Health Care System – Advocating to improve regulation and documentation burdens that impact physician well-being and quality patient care

Organization – Promoting leadership skills to help physicians succeed as change agents to improve organization practices and policies

Practice – Improving efficiencies to optimize physicians’ time and promote a more sustainable practice

Individual – Focusing on individual well-being habits to address physician stress and fatigue with awareness and mindfulness techniques

Physician Culture – Addressing the mindset of physician self-sacrifice as a cultural norm, and encouraging self-care and peer-to-peer support

With the launch of the Physician Health First initiative and this web portal, the AAFP is dedicated to helping solve this health care crisis with the action needed at the system level, and the resources desired at the individual level, so family physicians can sustain a successful and meaningful practice.

Watch as Dr. Knight introduces the Physician Health First initiative at the 2017 FMX in San Antonio, and speaks to the urgent need to improve physician well-being.

Burnout and The Family Physician Ecosystem

There are many layers to the family physician ecosytem. Hear about how each of these, from the U.S. health care system to physician culture, affects well-being and your professional satisfaction.

The Causes of Physician Burnout

Physician well-being is one of the AAFP's top priorities, but what causes burnout? From the burden of administrative tasks, to long work hours, and the inherent complexity of the work family physicians do, many factors affect physician well-being.  

A Holistic Solution to Improve Physician Well-being

The AAFP's Physician Health First initiative is taking a holistic approach to address physician burnout and improve well-being. Watch to learn how.

Thank you for your support.

Your help is helping.

The AAFP Physician Health First initiative is made possible by your generous contributions to the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. To continue to support the Foundation’s efforts, make a contribution to the AAFP Foundation(www.aafpfoundation.org).



  1. Maslach C, Schaufeli WB, Leiter MP. Job burnout. Annu Rev Psychol. 2001;52:397-422.
  2. Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Dyrbye LN, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general US working population between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015;90(12):1600-1613.
  3. Medscape Lifestyle Report 2017.

Physician Mental Health and Suicide

Read this article to learn more about why physicians are at higher risk of suicide and how to combat the mental health stigma in medicine.

Read Now»