2018 ACS Governors Survey: Burnout—a growing challenge
By David J. Welsh, MD, FACS , Hiba Abdel Aziz, MBBCh, FACS , Juan C. Paramo, MD, FACS , Peter Andreone, MD, FACS , David W. Butsch, MD, FACS and Julian Smith, MB, BS, FACS PUBLISHED June 1, 2019 • Print-Friendly
Editor’s note: The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Board of Governors (B/G) conducts an annual survey of its domestic and international members. The purpose of the survey is to provide a means of communicating the concerns of the Governors to the College leadership. The 2018 ACS Governors Survey, conducted in August 2018 by the B/G Survey Workgroup, had a 91 percent (263/289) response rate.
One of the survey’s topics was surgeon burnout, and this article outlines the Governors’ feedback on this issue.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the health care environment
—with its packed work days, demanding pace, time pressures, and emotional intensity—can put physicians and other clinicians at high risk for burnout. Burnout is a long-term stress reaction marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment.
In recent years, the rising prevalence of burnout among clinicians (more than 50 percent in some studies) has led to questions regarding its effects on access to care, patient safety, and quality of care. Burned-out physicians are more likely to leave practice, which reduces patient access to and continuity of care. Burnout also can threaten patient safety and care quality, as depersonalization leads to ineffective interactions with patients. Physicians experiencing prolonged fatigue also suffer from impaired attention, memory, and executive function.
This survey revealed many causative factors for burnout, such as the administrative burdens associated with electronic health records (EHRs), liability concerns, regulatory demands, call pressures, diminished work-life balance, decreased compensation, lack of peer support, and exhaustion. Most often, the affected physician is left with a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. The increasing pressures from these factors do not allow physicians the necessary time to recover.