Conference Coverage

Years in practice, burnout risk linked in otolaryngology



– Otolaryngologists and otolaryngology nurse practitioners at the Cleveland Clinic who have been practicing for 6-10 years are at the highest risk for burnout, while those who have been practicing for more than 10 are at the lowest risk.

Dr. Michael S. Benninger

Dr. Michael S. Benninger

The finding comes from a cross-sectional survey published in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery designed to evaluate the presence of burnout among 52 otolaryngology clinicians and to compare results among faculty, trainees, and advanced practice practitioners.

“Other studies have shown that work-life balance can contribute to burnout symptoms, including low spouse support, having young children at home, and a decreased satisfaction with work-life balance,” Michael S. Benninger, MD, said at the Triological Society’s Combined Sections Meeting. “We wanted to know if there was difference within our group among people at different points in their career.”

In a study led by Katie Geelan-Hansen, MD, Dr. Benninger, who chairs the Head and Neck Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, and his colleagues administered the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and questions regarding work stressors specific to that department to 52 employees (Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;159[2]:254-7). The questions focused on domains of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of personal accomplishment.

Of the 52 surveys distributed, 42 participants (85%) completed the survey. The researchers found that respondents who had worked for 6-10 years had higher MBI scores on emotional exhaustion, compared with their peers who had worked for 5 years or fewer, and those who had worked for more than 10 years (18.18, compared with 15.78 and 14.68, respectively; P = .63). A similar association was observed for MBI scores on depersonalization (15.14, compared with 14.72 and 9.68; P = .07). MBI scores on personal accomplishment were similar between the two groups (39, compared with 38.33 and 40.84; P = .5).

“People who are more mature in their practice tend to have less burnout,” Dr. Benninger said. “That may be because they’ve found a place of homeostasis. They’ve figured out how to maximize their efficiency, and they may have more support.

“The people who tend to be the biggest concern are those 6 -10 years into the field. I recommend that you focus on that group. It’s a transitional time in their careers. It’s a time when there’s some insecurity; they’re being asked to do a lot more.” It remains unclear if male or female respondents had a higher level of burnout, he added, although other surveys have suggested that female physicians have a higher level of burnout, compared with male physicians.

“Our overall evaluation of burnout was lower than what you see from national statistics,” Dr. Benninger said at the meeting, which was jointly sponsored by the Triological Society and the American College of Surgeons. “We have had a wellness officer [at Cleveland Clinic] for a long time. We have a group of people on our clinic’s board of governors who any staff can go to in order to vent issues on a private basis. All of those things help, but I am seeing an escalating unsatisfaction with the workload and the work environment. We’re looking at other things. Medical scribes seem to make a big difference for people, so we’re advancing scribes throughout our organization. Expectation setting and rewarding people are also important.”

He reported having no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Benninger MS et al. Triological CSM, Abstracts.

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