Professional burnout among US plastic surgeons: results of a national survey

Rachel Streu, Juliana Hansen, Paul Abrahamse, Amy K Alderman
Annals of Plastic Surgery 2014, 72 (3): 346-50

PURPOSE: Little is known about professional burnout among plastic surgeons. Our purpose is to describe its prevalence among a large national sample of plastic surgeons and identify contributing factors.

METHODS: A mailed, self-administered survey was sent to 708 plastic surgeons who were randomly sampled from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons national membership (71% response rate). The dependent variable was professional burnout, measured by 3 subscales from the validated Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey. "High" scores in either the emotional exhaustion or depersonalization subscale categories predict professional burnout. The independent variables included surgeon sociodemographic and professional characteristics. χ was used for the bivariate analyses.

RESULTS: Nearly one third (29%) of surgeons scored high in subscale categories predictive of professional burnout. Factors associated with high emotional exhaustion scores included surgeon age, 40-50 years (P = 0.03); fair/poor physician health (P < 0.01); ER call (P < 0.01); >60 work hours per week (P = 0.03); primarily reconstructive practice (P < 0.01); private practice (P = 0.01); and group practice (P = 0.02). Factors associated with high depersonalization scores included fair/poor physician health (P= 0.01); ER call (P < 0.01); private practice (P = 0.01); and group practice (P = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS: Nearly one third of plastic surgeons have signs of professional burnout. Middle-aged surgeons and those in poor health are most at risk; along with those who have a reconstructive rather than cosmetic practice, long work hours, ER call responsibility, a nonacademic setting. and group as compared to solo practice. These data have important implications for future workforce shortages and health care quality.

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