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Distress and Career Satisfaction Among 14 Surgical Specialties, Comparing Academic and Private Practice Settings

Balch, Charles M. MD*; Shanafelt, Tait D. MD; Sloan, Jeffrey A. PhD; Satele, Daniel V. BS*; Freischlag, Julie A. MD*

doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e318230097e
Papers of the 131st ASA Annual Meeting

Objective(s): We compared distress parameters and career satisfaction from survey results of surgeons from 14 specialties practicing in an academic versus private practice environment.

Methods: The 2008 American College of Surgeons survey evaluated demographic variables, practice characteristics, career satisfaction, and distress parameters using validated instruments.

Results: The practice setting (academic vs. private practice) was independently associated with burnout in a multivariate (MV) analysis (odds ratio [OR] 1.172, P = 0.02). Academic surgeons were less likely to experience burnout compared to those in private practice (37.7% vs. 43.1%), less likely to screen positive for depression (27.6% vs. 33%) or to have suicide ideation (4.7% vs. 7.4%; all P < 0.0001). They were also more likely to have career satisfaction (77.4% of academic surgeons would become a surgeon again vs. 64.9% for those in private practice; P < 0.0001)) and to recommend a medical career to their children (61.3% vs. 43.7%, P < 0.0001). For academic surgeons, the most significant positive associations with burnout were: (1) trauma surgery (OR 1.513, P = 0.0059), (2) nights on call (OR 1.062, P = 0.0123), and (3) hours worked (OR 1.019, P < 0.0001), whereas the negative associations were: (1) having older children (>22 years; OR 0.529, P < 0.0001), (2) pediatric surgery (OR 0.583, P = 0.0053), (3) cardiothoracic surgery (OR 0.626, P = 0.0117), and (4) being male (OR 0.787, P = 0.0491). In a private practice setting, the most significant positive associations with burnout were: (1) urologic surgery (OR 1.497, P = 0.0086), (2) having 31% to 50% time for nonclinical activities (OR 1.404, P = 0.0409), (3) incentive based pay (OR 1.344, P < 0.0001), (4) nights on call (OR 1.045, P = 0.0029), and (5) hours worked (OR 1.015, P < 0.0001), whereas the negative associations were: (1) older children (OR 0.677, P = 0.0001), (2) physician spouse (OR 0.753, P = 0.0093), and (3) older age (OR 0.989, P = 0.0158). The independent factors relating to career satisfaction for surgeons in private practice and academic practice were also different.

Conclusions: Factors associated with burnout were distinct for academic and private practice surgeons. Distress parameters were lower and career satisfaction higher for academic surgeons.

Factors associated with burnout were distinct for academic and private practice surgeons and among surgical specialties. The independent factors relating to career satisfaction for surgeons in private practice and academic practice were also different. Distress parameters were lower and career satisfaction higher for academic surgeons.

*Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD;

Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Reprints: Charles M. Balch, MD, UT Southwestern Cancer Center, Division of Surgical Oncology, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390-8548. E-mail: charles.balch@utsouthwestern.edu.

Presented at the American Surgical Association Meeting, April 14, 2011 Boca Raton, FL.

Disclosure: The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.