Surgeons with long hours facing burn-out
Anyone who works long hours knows that it can take a toll – burn-out, depression, career dissatisfaction, work-home conflicts. What if that toll is being taken on your surgeon?
A new Johns Hopkins-Mayo Clinic study, published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, shows that the long hours and multiple night on-call are leading to personal and patients safety problems.
“Increasing hours and nights on call results in surgeon distress using every variable we have,” said Dr. Charles M. Balch, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study's lead author, in a statement. “There's a strong correlation between workload and distress, which comes out in the personal and professional lives of surgeons.”
The researchers looked at data from a 2008 survey of 7,905 surgeons. Of those working more than 80 hours a week, half met the criteria for burnout, 39 were depressed and 11 percent said they’d made a significant medical error in the past 3 months. About 20 percent said they would have become a surgeon if they had it to do over.
The researchers, however, are not advocating for a shorter work week because it’s not clear that would satisfy doctors or lead to better care – doctors don’t like to punch time clocks, Balch said. Instead, he said, is better monitoring of doctors at risk for burn out. They could be referred for counseling or they could have their scheduled tailored to meet their needs, for example.
The American College of Surgeons also has begun another study of burnout to collect more information.
In the meantime, what would you want your doctor to do?