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Prevalence of burnout and its relationship to health status and social support in more than 1000 subspecialty anesthesiologists


Background Physician burnout may be at ‘epidemic’ proportions due to factors associated with modern healthcare practice and technology. Practice attributes vary appreciably among subspecialists. Understanding burnout incidence and its associated factors could illuminate potential causes and interventions. We evaluated burnFout, mental and physical health, and social support and coping skills in acute and chronic pain physicians and pediatric and cardiac anesthesiologists.

Methods We administered the Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS), a two-item self-identified burnout measure, the Veterans RAND 12-item Health Survey and the Social Support and Personal Coping Survey to subspecialty society members practicing acute and chronic pain management, pediatric anesthesiology and cardiac anesthesiology. Multivariable regression analysis compared the groups, and adjusted burnout prevalence was compared with an all-physician and an employed general population sample.

Results Among 1303 participants (response rates 21.6%–35.6% among the subspecialty groups), 43.4% met established burnout criteria (range 30.0%–62.3%). Chronic pain physicians had significantly worse scores (unadjusted) than the other three groups of subspecialty anesthesiologists, the all-physician comparator group and the general population comparator group. Mental health inversely correlated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalization in all groups. Self-identified burnout correlated with the full MBI-HSS (R=0.54; positive predictive value of 0.939 (0.917, 0.955)). Physicians’ scores for personal accomplishment were higher than population norms.

Conclusions This study provides data on burnout prevalence and associated demographic, health and social factors in subspecialist anesthesiologists. Chronic pain anesthesiologists had significantly greater burnout than the other groups. The self-identified burnout metric performed well and may be an attractive alternative to the full MBI-HSS.

  • analgesia
  • ethics
  • subspecialties
  • acute pain
  • chronic pain

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