Battling Burnout

A study published in the journal Anesthesiology indicates that academic physicians face a high rate of burnout. The authors surveyed 117 chairpersons of academic anesthesiology departments using an instrument called the Burnout Inventory. The survey asked the respondents about exhaustion and likelihood of stepping down. They received 93 usable responses.

When they analyzed the results, 28% of chairs met the criteria for high burnout and 31% met the criteria for moderately high burnout. As many as 69% of the chairs exhibited signs of exhaustion, one of the elements of burnout. The likelihood of burnout did not correlate with age, sex, or time as chair,  but it did relate to low levels of support from spouses and other personal relationships.

Chairs face more complex demands and interact with more constituencies than the average faculty member. Still, similar studies show that physicians and residents also put themselves at high risk for burnout. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to forestall burnout. They include making time for wellness and not postponing gratification. Mentorship is important to make chairs and other faculty feel that their challenges are shared and not theirs alone. Lastly, it’s important to have a network of peers inside and outside the institution to talk to and receive support.


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