Successful careers don’t just happen. They are made by individuals who take charge and build their own success. The alternative is burnout.
“Part of burnout is feeling overburdened, overworked, and out of control,” said Barbara Jung, MD, AGAF, professor and chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, during Strategies for a Successful Career: Wellness, Empowerment, Leadership and Resilience at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2018. “If somebody is staying until 9 or 10 o’clock [at night] to finish notes, I have a discussion with them. It is good to be done at 5 p.m. and go home. It is all about setting your own priorities and not letting the job take over your life.”
Associations have a role to play, too. The ASGE Technology Committee reported in 2010 that up to 89% of GIs suffer musculoskeletal injuries from manipulating scopes. Colonoscopist’s thumb (left thumb tendonitis) and metacarpophalangeal joint strain were the most common injuries.
“Risk factors are part of our work,” said Mehnaz Shafi, MD, AGAF, professor of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. “Pinching, pushing, pulling, and awkward positions are part of what we do. This is an injury with consequences.”
Dr. Shafi chairs the AGA Task Force on Ergonomics. The group has recommended changes to endoscopic work stations that minimize injury. The most important changes include mounting monitors on flexible stands to accommodate GIs of all heights, adding straps to the control head to allow the fingers to relax, providing ergonomic training to all GIs and using patient beds that can be raised and lowered to accommodate both tall and short GIs.
“Shaping your career is one of the key principles in preventing burnout,” said Arthur DeCross, MD, AGAF, professor of medicine, gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, N.Y. “We know that more than half of gastroenterologists self-identify as being burned out. And one of the major contributors to burnout is lack of control over your work environment, your career, your colleagues. Taking control of your career can make a difference.”
Taking control can be particularly important for women. An AGA burnout survey in 2015 found that 51% of male GIs reported burnout versus 62% of female GIs.
One reason is women’s tendency to negotiate poorly on their own behalf, said Marie-Pier Tétreault, PhD, assistant professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.
“It’s a matter of attitude,” she explained. “Men tend to believe they can and should make life happen. Women tend to believe that what you see is what you get. Even when women do negotiate, they tend to ask for 15%-30% less than their male colleagues. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.”
Simply taking the lead in negotiations can improve the outcome, she continued. Network with colleagues and mentors to find the appropriate ranges for salaries, benefits, and perks such as parking, spousal job opportunities, facilities and space, teaching expectations, administrative support, and more.