Why Will Physician Burnout Be a Hot Topic at the 2017 World Congress of Gastroenterology?

The short answer from ACG president Carol Burke, MD

Q: Why will physician burnout be a hot topic at the 2017 World Congress of Gastroenterology?

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A: Physicians in the U.S. are experiencing an epidemic of burnout — over 50 percent of physicians in some specialties. Burnout leads physicians to leave the practice of medicine prematurely and impacts the quality of relationships they have with patients, peers and family. It jeopardizes the future of the physician workforce in our nation.

At the Presidential Plenary Research Session at the 2017 World Congress of Gastroenterology, I will be presenting original research on burnout in a cohort of gastroenterologists. My co-investigators and I wanted to study the prevalence and associated factors of burnout in our specialty so we could create resources to mitigate its impact on providers.

We found approximately 50 percent of gastroenterologists were burned out. Associated factors include:

  • Female sex
  • Younger age
  • More hours spent on domestic chores, childcare and patient-related work at home

Nearly 60 percent of our respondents requested resources to mitigate burnout, and promote professional and personal well-being. Both personal and organizational approaches are needed. Data show that facilitated small-group, short-term interventions in the workplace — including mindfulness, stress-reduction and reflection strategies — have durable results on reducing burnout, enhancing quality of life and improving patient satisfaction. Also recommended is returning autonomy to physicians and allowing them at least 20 percent of the time to engage in aspects of the practice they find rewarding. Personal interventions such as physical activity also have been shown to be effective.

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This research came out of the ACG Professionalism and Wellness Initiative.

At World Congress on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, I also will present a lecture on “Physician Wellness: A Critical Mission” during the Practice Management course. I will review factors associated with stress and burnout in the workplace as well as the disproportionate health toll it takes on physicians, their health, their practice and their relationships.

I encourage providers to attend the Practice Management course and my lecture to recognize the pervasiveness of burnout, its adverse effect on them and tips to enhance their wellness.

— Carol Burke, MD
Vice Chair, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Cleveland Clinic

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