Workplace stress can take a toll on your brain surgeon, too

February 9, 2018, University of Southern California

When it comes to workplace stress, even doctors aren't immune to its effects. For doctors training to become neurosurgeons, burnout is common, and certain workplace stressors—like unrewarding mentor relationships, difficult coworkers and not getting enough exposure to the operating room—can lead to it, according to a new study from the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Building the skills needed to treat complex neurological conditions like stroke, brain tumors or requires a highly demanding, seven-year training program. The pressure of that training can sometimes lead to emotional exhaustion, an inability to connect with others or feeling unaccomplished, which are components of . Understanding what factors influence burnout can be a powerful catalyst for change.

"As a patient, you don't want your doctor to be depressed or demoralized when they're working on you, because they're not their best self," says the study's lead author Frank Attenello, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical neurological surgery at the Keck School. "And as a society, we don't want to discourage people from becoming neurosurgeons, because we have a rapidly aging population in need of neurosurgeons' skills."

While research on burnout is gaining steam in many fields, not much attention has been paid to it in neurosurgery until now, Attenello explains.

To better understand it, Attenello and his colleagues surveyed 346 neurosurgery residents across the United States. Using an 86-item questionnaire, the team explored everything from whether residents felt satisfied with different aspects of their training to whether they were considering quitting training or leaving medicine entirely. Burnout was assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a validated tool that has been used to measure burnout both in health care and other professions.

The study, published today in the Journal of Neurosurgery, found that 81 percent of residents were satisfied with their career, but 41 percent had given serious thought to quitting neurosurgery at some point. The overall burnout rate was 67 percent—more than double the estimated rate of burnout among American workers overall. Predictors of burnout included inadequate exposure to the operating room, hostile faculty, unsatisfactory relationships with mentors and social stressors outside of work.

"Some of the most impressive and energetic medical students enter neurosurgery," Attenello says. "When they encounter burnout, it limits their considerable potential, both with their patient care and possibly in their academic and research achievements for the field as a whole."

To help reduce the risk of burnout, Attenello and others at the Keck School have already implemented a new model for mentorship. This year, new residents in the Department of Neurological Surgery will choose their mentors, and the school will assign a backup mentor for additional support.

"Our study provided some valuable insights to the prevalence of burnout and some of the pain points in neurosurgeons," says study co-author Steven L. Giannotta, MD, chair and professor of at the Keck School. "Recognizing that burnout exists and finding ways to address it are important steps educational institutions can take to mitigate it."

Explore further: High levels of burnout, stress for U.S. surgical residents

More information: Journal of Neurosurgery (2018). DOI: 10.3171/2017.9.JNS17996 , http://thejns.org/doi/full/10.3171/2017.9.JNS17996

Related Stories

High levels of burnout, stress for U.S. surgical residents

November 17, 2017
(HealthDay)—Surgical residents have high levels of burnout, which is associated with high stress, depression, and suicidal ideation, according to a study published online in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

New workflows have potential to address provider burnout

November 28, 2017
(HealthDay)—New solutions are needed to address burnout among health care team members, yet, in a catch-22 situation for health industry leaders, change fatigue contributes to burnout, according to a Vocera Communications ...

High-volume NICUs see more staff burnout

April 18, 2017
(HealthDay)—Staff burnout in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) is most prevalent in units with high patient volume and electronic health records, according to a study published online April 18 in Pediatrics.

ACG: burnout reported by about half of gastroenterologists

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Almost half of gastroenterologists report burnout, with lifestyle or work-life balance factors frequently associated with burnout, according to a study presented at the World Congress of Gastroenterology, being ...

High costs associated with physician burnout, attrition

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—Physicians who are experiencing burnout are more than twice as likely to leave their organization within two years, and this is associated with significant economic costs, according to a report from the American ...

AMA online tools address systems-level physician burnout

January 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Tools and resources have been developed to help address physician burnout at the systems level, which may affect more than half of doctors, according to a report published by the American Medical Association ...

Recommended for you

Do you see what I see? Researchers harness brain waves to reconstruct images of what we perceive

February 22, 2018
A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough can, for the first time, reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity gathered by EEG.

Neuroscientists discover a brain signal that indicates whether speech has been understood

February 22, 2018
Neuroscientists from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Rochester have identified a specific brain signal associated with the conversion of speech into understanding. The signal is present when the listener has ...

Study in mice suggests personalized stem cell treatment may offer relief for multiple sclerosis

February 22, 2018
Scientists have shown in mice that skin cells re-programmed into brain stem cells, transplanted into the central nervous system, help reduce inflammation and may be able to help repair damage caused by multiple sclerosis ...

Biomarker, clues to possible therapy found in novel childhood neurogenetic disease

February 22, 2018
Researchers studying a rare genetic disorder that causes severe, progressive neurological problems in childhood have discovered insights into biological mechanisms that drive the disease, along with early clues that an amino ...

A look at the space between mouse brain cells

February 22, 2018
Between the brain's neurons and glial cells is a critical but understudied structure that's been called neuroscience's final frontier: the extracellular space. With a new imaging paradigm, scientists can now see into and ...

Nolan film 'Memento' reveals how the brain remembers and interprets events from clues

February 22, 2018
Key repeating moments in the film give viewers the information they need to understand the storyline. The scenes cause identical reactions in the viewer's brain. The results deepen our understanding of how the brain functions, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.