In recent years across the field of medicine, there is a greater appreciation of the phenomenon of physician and surgeon burnout. Studies have shown that burnout is associated with higher rates of surgical and medical errors, decreased quality of life and increased suicidal ideation. Burnout rates vary among subspecialties, ranging from 27% to up to 75%.(1, 2) Amongst plastic surgery trainees, burnout rates of up to 57.5% have been reported.
A literature review was conducted on articles addressing burnout, mental health and quality of life of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery trainees and consultants. The search was limited to english language articles to the past 5 years.
Number of hours worked per week, number of on-call days per month, increased bureaucratic tasks and practice computerization were associated with increased rates of burnout.(3) A number of studies also found there was no statistically significant association between burnout and relationship status, age, gender or number of years post-graduation.(2) Increased self-reported surgical errors, decreased professional fulfillment and increased suicidal ideation were associated with burnout. From a business perspective, burnout was also associated with a turnover cost of $500 000 – $1 000 000.(4) There was a paucity of literature concerning burnout prevention however a number of strategies have been shown in other surgical programs to have an effect, including mentorship and cultivating a learning environment free of shaming.(5, 6)
Burnout in plastic surgery remains a significant issue for both trainees and consultants. Some factors appear to be relatively modifiable, such as increasing mentorship programs and improving workplace culture. Other factors such as works worked/week and on-call require a delicate balance to be struck between training, service provision and workload.