Changes in the burnout profile of chairs of academic departments of obstetrics and gynecology over the past 15 years

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Sep;219(3):303.e1-303.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2018.06.012. Epub 2018 Jun 28.


Background: While many studies have documented the high prevalence of burnout in practicing physicians and medical trainees, fewer reports describe burnout in academic leaders. In 2002, we observed a moderate-high to high level of burnout in 41.4% of chairs of academic departments of obstetrics and gynecology.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify trends in burnout and associated factors in today's obstetrics and gynecology chairs as they face complex changes to the current health care environment.

Study design: This was a cross-sectional study. A survey was developed based on the questionnaire used in our first investigation and sent electronically to all members of the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Burnout was measured using an abbreviated Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Sciences Survey. In addition to demographic data, we assessed perceived stressors, job satisfaction, spousal/partner support, self-efficacy, depression, suicidal ideation, and stress management.

Results: The response rate was 60% (84/139). Almost 30% of chairs were women, increased from 7.6% in 2002. Hospital and department budget deficits and loss of key faculty remain major stressors noted by participants. The Maslach Burnout Inventory results have changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Today's chairs demonstrated less burnout but with an "ineffective" profile. Subscale scores for emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were reduced but >50% reported low personal accomplishment. Spousal support remained important in preventing burnout.

Conclusion: Chairs of academic departments of obstetrics and gynecology continue to face significant job-related stress. Burnout has decreased; however, personal accomplishment scores have also declined most likely due to administrative factors that are beyond the chairs' perceived control.

Keywords: burnout; department chairs; obstetrics and gynecology.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers*
  • Budgets
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital*
  • Occupational Stress / epidemiology
  • Occupational Stress / psychology
  • Personnel Turnover
  • Physicians
  • Prevalence
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Support*
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires