Factors associated with career satisfaction and burnout among US neurosurgeons: results of a nationwide survey

J Neurosurg. 2015 Jul;123(1):161-73. doi: 10.3171/2014.12.JNS141348. Epub 2015 Feb 13.


OBJECT :The object of this study was to identify and quantify predictors of burnout and career satisfaction among US neurosurgeons.

Methods: All US members (3247) of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) were invited to participate in a survey between September and December 2012. Responses were evaluated through univariate analysis. Factors independently associated with burnout and career satisfaction were determined using multivariable logistic regression. Subgroup analysis of academic and nonacademic neurosurgeons was performed as well.

Results: The survey response rate was 24% (783 members). The majority of respondents were male, 40-60 years old, in a stable relationship, with children, working in a group or university practice, and trained in a subspecialty. More than 80% of respondents reported being at least somewhat satisfied with their career, and 70% would choose a career in neurosurgery again; however, only 26% of neurosurgeons believed their professional lives would improve in the future, and 52% believed it would worsen. The overall burnout rate was 56.7%. Factors independently associated with both burnout and career satisfaction included achieving a balance between work and life outside the hospital (burnout OR 0.45, satisfaction OR 10.0) and anxiety over future earnings and/or health care reform (burnout OR 1.96, satisfaction OR 0.32). While the burnout rate for nonacademic neurosurgeons (62.9%) was higher than that for academic neurosurgeons (47.7%), academicians who had practiced for over 20 years were less likely to be satisfied with their careers.

Conclusions: The rates of burnout and career satisfaction were both high in this survey study of US neurosurgeons. The negative effects of burnout on the lives of surgeons, patients, and their families require further study and probably necessitate the development of interventional programs at local, regional, and even national levels.

Keywords: AANS = American Association of Neurological Surgeons; AUC = area under the curve; CSNS = Council of State Neurosurgical Societies; MBI = Maslach Burnout Inventory; PPACA = Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; burnout; career; health care reform; neurosurgery; satisfaction; survey.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Career Choice*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgery / psychology
  • Neurosurgery / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Specialization / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States