Operating hurts: a study of EAES surgeons

Antonia C Wells, Magnus Kjellman, Simon J F Harper, Mikael Forsman, M Susan Hallbeck
Surgical Endoscopy 2019, 33 (3): 933-940

BACKGROUND: Work-related pain and discomfort experienced by surgeons is widely reported in the literature. A survey was, therefore, conducted to explore this issue among members of the European Association for Endoscopic Surgery (EAES).

METHODS: The survey was emailed to 2980 EAES members in 2017 enquiring about their working practice, musculoskeletal (MSK) pain and burnout.

RESULTS: A total of 569 (19%) surgeons responded, of whom 556 were practicing surgeons; 86% were consultants, 84% were male, and 94% were right-handed. Respondents operated on average 3.3 days/week with 27% of their procedures lasting longer than 3 h. The 386 endoscopists surveyed reported performing an average of 5.3 procedures/day with 83% performing endoscopy at least once per week. Over half of practicing surgeons (62%) reported their worst pain score was 3 or higher (10-point scale) in the past 7 working days, encompassing 71% of their open, 72% laparoscopic, 48% robot-assisted cases and 52% of their endoscopies. Of the 120 surgeons who had ever sought medical help for aches, pain or discomfort, 38% were currently in pain and 16% had considered leaving surgery due to their MSK pain, 26% had reported work-related pain to their employer, 26% had been on short-term disability during their career and 4% long-term disability due to MSK disorders. A significant proportion of the respondents (49%) felt their physical discomfort would influence the ability to perform or assist with surgical procedures in the future. These surgeons reported significantly lower satisfaction from their work (p = 0.024), higher burnout (p = 0.005) and significantly higher callousness toward people (p < 0.001) than those not fearing loss of career longevity.

CONCLUSION: The results show that MSK pain is prevalent amongst EAES members. Nearly half the respondents had career longevity fears from pain/discomfort which, in turn, correlated with more prevalent feelings of burnout. More emphasis should be placed on the aetiology, prevention and management of musculoskeletal pain in the surgical workforce.

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