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

The brain predicts words before they are pronounced

September 18, 2018
The brain is not only able to finish the sentences of others: A study by the Basque research centre BCBL has shown for the first time that it can also anticipate an auditory stimulus and determine the phonemes and specific ...

Engineers decode conversations in brain's motor cortex

September 18, 2018
How does your brain talk with your arm? The body doesn't use English, or any other spoken language. Biomedical engineers are developing methods for decoding the conversation, by analyzing electrical patterns in the motor ...

Circuit found for brain's statistical inference about motion

September 17, 2018
As the eye tracks a bird flying past, the muscles that pan the eyeballs to keep the target in focus set their pace not only on the speed they see, but also on a reasonable estimate of the speed they expect from having watched ...

Mouse study reveals that activity, not rest, speeds recovery after brain injury

September 17, 2018
When recovering from a brain injury, getting back in the swing of things may be more effective than a prolonged period of rest, according to a new Columbia study in mice. These findings offer a compelling example of the brain's ...

Opioid users could benefit from meth-relapse prevention strategy, study finds

September 17, 2018
New research raises the possibility that a wider group of people battling substance use disorders may benefit from a Scripps Research-developed relapse-prevention compound than previously thought.

Fine-tuned sense of smell relies on timing

September 17, 2018
If you can tell the difference between a merlot and a cabernet franc just by smell, it's probably all in the timing.

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.