Burnout Among Vascular Surgeons – A Report From the SVS Wellness Committee


Physician burnout has been linked to medical errors, decreased patient satisfaction, and reduced career longevity. In light of the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular disease, vascular surgeon burnout presents a legitimate public health concern because of the impact on the adequacy of the vascular surgery workforce. Dawn Coleman, MD, and her colleagues, performed a study on behalf of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) Wellness Task Force to define the prevalence of burnout among practicing vascular surgeons, and to identify the risk factors for burnout. Such information will be used to facilitate future SVS initiatives to avert this crisis.

Dr. Dawn Coleman, Michigan

Dr. Dawn Coleman

In Thursday’s von Liebig Forum, Dr. Coleman, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, will present the results of their 2018 anonymous survey of active SVS members. The survey used a validated burnout assessment, Maslach Burnout Index (MBI), embedded in a questionnaire that also captured demographic and practice-related characteristics.

The survey was personalized for the specialty and did allow for free text. according to Dr. Coleman, and “we specifically analyzed emotional exhaustion, one dimension of burnout.”

The accepted threshold of a score of 27 or greater on the MBI Emotional Exhaustion module was used to identify surgeons suffering from burnout. Risk factors for such were identified using bivariate analyses (Chi-square, Kruskal-Wallis), and multivariate logistic regression models were developed to identify independent risk factors for burnout, she added.

Dr. Coleman will present the results from the 960 out of 2,905 active SVS members who responded to the survey (33%). After excluding retired surgeons and incomplete submissions, responses from 872 practicing vascular surgeons were finally analyzed. The mean respondent age was 49.7 years; and the majority of respondents (81%) were men. The primary practice settings were academic (40%), community practice (41%), Veterans Administration hospital (3.3%), active military practice (1.5%), or “other.” Mean years in practice was 15.7.

Overall, 30% of the respondents met criteria for burnout, 37% screened positive for symptoms of depression in the past month and 8% supported thoughts of taking their own life during the last 12 months.

By unadjusted analysis, factors significantly associated with burnout included clinical work hours, on-call frequency, electronic medical record/documentation requirements, perceived conflict between work and personal responsibilities, and physical pain. Multivariate analysis revealed age, work-related physical pain, and conflict between work and personal responsibilities as independent risk factors for burnout, said Dr. Coleman.

“Approximately one-third of practicing vascular surgeons self-report burnout and depression, according to our survey. Advancing age, physical pain, and work-life conflict are each independent predictors for burnout among vascular surgeons. These findings will facilitate SVS efforts to improve vascular surgeon well-being, in an effort to mitigate the personal, economic, and social impact of vascular surgeon burnout,” Dr. Coleman concluded.

See more on the work of the SVS Wellness Task Force in the June issue of Vascular Specialist.


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