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    Why are ob/gyns burning out?

     

    Physician burnout also negatively affects patient care; it is related to suboptimal patient outcomes, as well as increases in medical errors (among attending physicians and those in training), liability claims, and inappropriate prescriptions.19-21 Patient satisfaction is also negatively affected by physician burnout. Patients of physicians with high emotional exhaustion and high depersonalization had significantly lower satisfaction scores compared with patients of physicians with low exhaustion and low depersonalization, respectively.21 Physicians suffering from burnout also have higher referral rates, which may be a surrogate marker for overuse of resources leading to unnecessary interventions for patients and increased costs.22

    Finally, the ramifications of burnout for society as a whole are significant. Physician burnout is associated with decreased career satisfaction, which can lead to lower productivity and efficiency. Dissatisfied physicians are more likely to change jobs or leave medicine altogether, thus increasing cost and contributing to physician shortages. The loss of highly trained physicians through early retirement as well as the loss of productivity of dissatisfied physicians will place increasing burdens on our profession and the medical system.23 Finally, 400 physicians commit suicide annually, the equivalent of an entire medical school each year. This is a tremendous loss to society as we face potential doctor shortages in the future, as well as a loss of dollars and time invested in training.2,15

     

    Possible solutions

    Clearly, burnout is an important issue, worthy of investment in prevention strategies. The preponderance of data suggest that there are practical solutions. These solutions require frank discussions and a commitment of time and resources with and for our trainees and leadership. In the wake of the publication of the recent SGO survey, a wellness task force was created to promote physician wellbeing through seminars at the SGO annual meeting.5

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recognized that ob/gyns have limitations and may need help navigating the waters of their highly rewarding but demanding careers. A clinical seminar on burnout will be held at the ACOG Annual Meeting in May 2016. Resources are also available on the ACOG website. We must also invest in further research into evidence-based solutions and commit to teaching our leaders (such as department chairs and national society leaders) strategies to recognize and address burnout. Left unchecked, physician burnout has the potential to compromise our careers and with it, our ability to care for our patients.

    NEXT: Burnout in gynecologic oncology >>

     

    Ilana Cass, MD
    Dr. Cass is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
    Linda R Duska, MD, MPH
    Dr Duska is Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Fellowship Director, Gynecologic Oncology, and ...

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    • Anonymous
      I think the tragedy of those 400 suicides is more a personal tragedy and less a bad return on investment!
    • Good article addressing most important issue facing the future of this specialty. The solution does not lie in yet more seminars to teach coping skills or research to document the obvious. We are tired of "coping". The only solution to the epidemic involves recognition by physician leadership that this is the tipping point and it is way past time physicians said "enough" and took back control of US Healthcare. The revolt against ABMS should be only the beginning. Physicians can learn to bind together or perish, plain and simple...
    • Anonymous
      Could not agree with the prior post. However, I would also point out that in addition to the myriad "burn out" factors that have been commented on and studied, the authors of this timely editorial did not devote enough commentary and analysis, is the issue of terrorism perpetuated on our specialty by the legal profession. This sad state of affairs is facilitated by unscrupulous colleagues that bend consensus, establish false parameters and bend the curve reality to suit a narrative that does not promote better outcomes. Rather, it has hastened the trends that were discussed in the article. Fortunately, our specialty has evolved to the point of recognizing the insanity of trying to be everything to all people. At the same time, we need to train our residents and impart on our younger colleagues the wisdom of our experience. Unless the aforementioned destructive trend ends with rational solutions, burn-out will produce a scarcity of providers. At that point, it may be too late.

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