Recognizing and preventing burnout among orthopaedic leaders

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2009 Feb;467(2):558-65. doi: 10.1007/s11999-008-0622-8. Epub 2008 Nov 22.


Stress, emotional exhaustion, and burnout are widespread in the medical profession in general and in orthopaedic surgery in particular. We attempted to identify variables associated with burnout as assessed by validated instruments. Surveys were sent to 282 leaders from orthopaedic surgery academic departments in the United States by e-mail and mail. Responses were received from 195 leaders for a response rate of 69%. The average surgeon worked 68.3 hours per week and more than (1/2) of this time was allocated to patient care. Highest stressors included excessive workload, increasing overhead, departmental budget deficits, tenure and promotion, disputes with the dean, and loss of key faculty. Personal-professional life imbalance was identified as an important risk factor for emotional exhaustion. Withdrawal, irritability, and family disagreements are early warning indicators of burnout and emotional exhaustion. Orthopaedic leaders can learn, and potentially model, ways to mitigate stress from other high-stress professions. Building on the strength of marital and family bonds, improving stress management skills and self-regulation, and improving efficiency and productivity can combine to assist the orthopaedic surgery leader in preventing burnout and emotional exhaustion.

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / diagnosis*
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Orthopedics* / organization & administration
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires