Authors: Aimee M. Becker, M.D. et al
ASA Monitor 05 2016, Vol.80, 8-11.
Being a physician anesthesiologist can be a tremendously rewarding experience. It can also be tremendously stressful. We work long, irregular hours. We are tasked with ever-evolving administrative responsibilities that distract from patient care. We make critical decisions every day that impact patient well-being. And more than half of us are experiencing occupational burnout.
Occupational burnout is a psychological syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, feelings of ineffectiveness, lack of motivation, and diminished empathy for our colleagues and patients.1 Burnout is an increasingly prevalent and increasingly recognized challenge for physicians. A Mayo Clinic study2 found that while occupational burnout remained relatively unchanged in the general population from 2011 to 2014 (28.4 to 28.6 percent), it increased significantly in the physician population (45.5 to 54.4 percent), with 55 percent of anesthesiologists reporting burnout. Additionally, anesthesiologists were found to be one of seven specialties in the “red zone,” indicating a confluence of high burnout and low work/life balance. These findings are significant because burn-out is not simply a matter of feeling “bummed out” about work; burnout impacts physician health, physician performance, patient safety and, subsequently, health care systems.