[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Burnout is a prevalent and important occupational hazard among surgical oncologists. The well-being or distress experienced can have a significant effect on clinicians and their families, the quality of care provided to patients, and the success of the health care organization.
We aimed to measure the prevalence of burnout, psychiatric morbidity, and quality of life using standardized measures; characterize associated features; and ascertain the surgical faculty's views on potential interventions and obstacles to change. Additional questions about service commitment to well-being, use of annual leave, and attitudes about weekend surgical practice were constructed to guide future targeted interventions.
Among the 72 surgeons who responded (response rate of 73%), we found that 42% of surgeons reported burnout and 27% psychiatric levels of distress, while 30% used alcohol and 13% used sleep medications as a possible means to cope. Only one third of surgeons reported high quality of life across physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual domains.
Compared to general surgical practices, cancer surgeons achieved more personal fulfillment and made less use of distancing methods to cope with their patients. Institutional culture contributes to the nonuse of available annual leave, attitudes about weekend operating schedules, and missed opportunities for the leadership to attend to surgeons' well-being.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We showed in a companion paper that the prevalence of burnout among surgical oncologists at a comprehensive cancer center was 42% and psychiatric morbidity 27%, and high quality of life (QOL) was absent for 54% of surgeons. Here we examine modifiable workplace factors and other stressors associated with burnout, psychiatric morbidity, and low QOL, together with interest in interventions to reduce distress and improve wellness.
Study-specific questions important for morale, QOL, and stressors associated with burnout were included in an anonymous Internet-based survey distributed to the surgical faculty at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Among the 72 surgeons who responded (response rate of 73%), surgeons identified high stress from medical lawsuits, pressure to succeed in research, financial worries, negative attitudes to gender, and ability to cope with patients' suffering and death. Workplace features requiring greatest change were the reimbursement system, administrative support, and schedule. Work-life balance and relationship issues with spouse or partner caused high stress. Strongest correlations with distress were a desire to change communication with patients and the tension between the time devoted to work versus time available to be with family. Surgeons' preferences for interventions favored a fitness program, nutrition consultation, and increased socialization with colleagues, with less interest in interventions conventionally used to address psychological distress.
Several opportunities to intervene at the organizational level permit efforts to reduce burnout and improve QOL.