American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Surgeons share tips to beat burnout (PS328)

OCTOBER 19, 2016
Clinical Congress Daily Highlights, Wednesday Second Edition

With recognition growing that physician burnout has reached crisis levels, institutions are taking action to address and prevent the problem. At a panel session Wednesday, surgeons provided examples of initiatives underway across the country.

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, the Center for Professionalism and Peer Support is aimed at helping physicians seek out support from their peers, changing the culture to prevent blame and shame, managing conflict, and teaching physicians how to maintain professionalism in stressful situations. Surveys show the majority of physicians would prefer to have support from their peers versus a counselor, so the center proactively offers one-on-one and group support to those who may need it.

A new initiative at Stanford University is aimed at preventing burnout among surgery residents. The effort focuses on four areas:

  1. Physical well-being, such as providing healthy snack options in break rooms and encouraging residents to have an annual physical exam
  2. Professional well-being, including mentoring programs, leadership opportunities, and selection of class representatives to voice concerns to leadership
  3. Social well-being, including events hosted by the residency program, and an after-hours guidebook with recommended free-time activities like hiking, movies, restaurants, pubs, and museums
  4. Psychological well-being, such as group counseling sessions with sports psychologists

A 2008 survey by the American College of Surgeons found 40 percent of surgeons reported experiencing burnout and 30 percent had symptoms of depression. Only 51 percent would recommend a career in medicine to their children. This mirrors other national surveys that show half of all physicians experience burnout.

“This is a major, major problem. It affects males and females. It affects experienced surgeons and residents,” said Roger R. Perry, MD, FACS, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA. “The good news is burnout is not inevitable. It can be prevented.”

Additional Information:
The Panel Session, Strategies for the Resident and Surgeon Facing Burnout, was held October 19 at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2016, in Washington, D.C. (program, webcast and audio information).