Background: Recent studies by the American College of Surgeons reveal that nearly 40 percent of U.S. surgeons exhibit signs of burnout. The authors endeavored to quantify the incidence of burnout among U.S. plastic surgeons, determine identifiable risk factors, and evaluate its impact on quality of life.
Methods: All U.S. residing members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons were invited to complete an anonymous survey between September of 2010 and August of 2011. The survey contained a validated measure of burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory) and evaluated surgeon demographics, professional and personal risk factors, career satisfaction, self-perceived medical errors, professional impairment, and family-home conflicts.
Results: Of the 5942 surgeons invited, 1691 actively practicing U.S. plastic surgeons (28.5 percent) completed the survey. The validated rate of burnout was 29.7 percent. Significant risk factors for burnout included subspecialty, number of hours worked and night calls per week, annual income, practice setting, and academic rank. Approximately one-fourth of plastic surgeons had significantly lower quality-of-life scores than the U.S. population norm, and this risk increases in burned out surgeons. In addition to having lower career satisfaction and more work-home conflicts, plastic surgeons with burnout also had a nearly two-fold increased risk of self-reported medical errors and self-reported impairment.
Conclusions: Over one-fourth of plastic surgeons in the United States experience validated burnout, with concomitant attenuated career satisfaction and quality of life. Multivariate analysis identified predisposing factors that may aid in better understanding risk profiles that lead to burnout; therefore, efforts to understand and thereby avoid this burnout phenomenon are warranted.