Chithra R. Perumalswami, MD, MSc Research Fellow Center for Bioethics & Social Sciences in Medicine University of Michigan

Women Physician Scientists More Likely To Burnout

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Chithra R. Perumalswami, MD, MSc Research Fellow Center for Bioethics & Social Sciences in Medicine University of Michigan

Dr. Perumalswami

Chithra R. Perumalswami, MD, MSc
Research Fellow
Center for Bioethics & Social Sciences in Medicine
University of Michigan

Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil Professor, Deputy Chair, and Residency Program Director Department of Radiation Oncology and Director Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine University of Michigan

Dr. Jagsi

Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil
Professor, Deputy Chair, and Residency Program Director
Department of Radiation Oncology and Director
Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine University of Michigan

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Burnout is a syndrome characterized by a sense of decreased personal accomplishment, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization. It can lead to increased depression, illness, suicide, and absences from work.

Physician burnout has reached epidemic proportions and physician-scientists are not immune from it. They are a critical part of the healthcare workforce who are responsible for translating innovative bench research to the bedside of patients, and in recent years have faced increasing pressures.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: In our survey study we observed burnout in a substantial number of both men (32%) and women (41%) who had received prestigious federal grant funding early in their careers, and that burnout was more common in women.

Our findings suggest that this difference is driven by differences in the experiences of men and women early in their careers. Specifically, we observed burnout to be associated with reports of substantial competing demands both at home and at work, and perceptions of their work environments. For example, increased time spent on parenting and domestic tasks, which includes caregiving, and more time spent on patient care at work was associated with greater burnout.

These findings suggest that lessening competing demands and improving environments at work might lessen burnout, and that such interventions may be especially important for women physician-scientists, who are more likely to experience burnout than their male peers.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Although prior studies have described protective effects of research in academic medicine our findings suggest that burnout is quite common among physician-scientists. Our findings suggest that the multiple and varied responsibilities and conflicting priorities at work and home may pose distinct challenges for those pursuing this type of career. Programs that seek to promote work-life integration, support those with substantial caregiving demands at home, and lessen competing demands for time within the workplace deserve more attention. These interventions include those such as the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists, as well as pilot programs at large academic medical centers such as Stanford University’s career coaching and time-banking system to promote flexibility, wellness, and success. Particularly noteworthy is our finding that an improved work environment is associated with a lower prevalence of burnout. The implications are wide-ranging. With medical advances occurring at great speed and the volume of expanding scientific knowledge, attention and resources must target systems-level factors that can reduce the risk of burnout not just for the benefit of the physician-scientists who are experiencing high levels of burnout, but for field of science and our society as a whole.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our findings suggest that programs for preventing, monitoring and alleviating burnout are important for all physicians, including physician-scientists. Programs for alleviating caregiving stress may be particularly important for women, who are more likely to experience substantial extraprofessional caregiving demands. Future research should focus on the development of systems-level interventions to decrease work-related burnout for all physicians, including physician-scientists, and address how to study burnout and behavioral adaptations to various interventions over time.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This work was supported by Grant 5 RO1 HL 101997 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Dr. Jagsi. The funding agency had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication. We are thankful to the grant recipients who chose to participate in our study and to provide us with valuable information and insight into this important subject, which has the potential to impact our national biomedical research enterprise.

Citation:

Patterns of Work-Related Burnout in Physician-Scientists Receiving Career Development Awards From the National Institutes of Health

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Last Modified: Oct 18, 2019 @ 9:22 pm

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