The pandemic has increased burnout among academic medical teachers

Dr Sonia Anand

According to a new report, already high levels of physician burnout have increased further during the COVID-19 pandemic as academic medical schools have faced increased demands on their time, both at work and outside. at home.

The burnout rate was nearly 76%, and rates were higher among women and early-career faculty.

“When physicians suffer from burnout, they are unable to provide the best patient care and begin to disengage from the health care community, which can cause academic physicians to leave the academy or community physicians to reduce their hours or retire earlier,” Sonia Anand, MD, PhD, the study’s lead author and professor of medicine and epidemiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, said Medscape Medical News.

“The high proportion of burnout reported by faculty was striking,” she said. “The impact of the pandemic on work-life balance…provided data to [support] our intuition [about] the impact of the pandemic on academic medical schools.

The study was published June 4 in the Canadian Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Career Achievement Denied

Anand and his colleagues invited all academic physicians and non-physician faculty members in the McMaster University Department of Medicine to participate in the department’s anonymous equity and diversity survey between Jan. 22 and Jan. 21. February 2021.

The survey asked about clinical practice, work demands and home life throughout the pandemic. Responses were entered on a Likert scale of one to five and compared to results from the department’s 2019 survey, which showed 49.7% of faculty said they felt burnt out more often than a few times a year.

In 2021, burnout was reported to be somewhat or significantly higher among 75.8% of respondents, with a split between women at 82.5% and men at 70.4%. Women, early-career faculty, clinician-educators, and faculty members between the ages of 30 and 50 reported significantly higher rates of burnout. Women of color reported the highest rate of all other groups at 87.9%.

Dr Stephanie Garner

About 68% of teachers declared more hours of work per day, including 80.4% of women and 58% of men. In addition, about 54.5% of women and 31.1% of men reported spending more hours caring for dependents.

Both women and men said that professional fulfillment and research productivity were lower overall. About 51.2% of respondents said their careers were less satisfying than before the pandemic, and 52.3% said their research productivity had dropped.

About 82% of physicians were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the personal risk of contracting an infectious disease and passing it on to a family member.

“As a young, early-career professor with three young children, the results weren’t surprising,” said the study’s lead author, Stephanie Garner, MD, assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University. Medscape Medical News.

“Juggling teaching, research and clinical care while trying to achieve work-life balance was difficult before the pandemic,” she said. “Working in an unstable and uncertain world while trying to navigate patients through a system that was unpredictable, unreliable and unreachable was difficult. Along with the challenges of school closures, lack of child care children, isolation and fear of bringing COVID-19 to our families has only added to the pressure.”

Whatis the solution?

Dr Nadia Khan

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, reported physician burnout was rampant across North America, with rates as high as 51%, the study authors write. Once the pandemic began to affect hospitals, universities and daily life, those rates skyrocketed.

Similar rates have been observed across Canada. A study published in BMJ open in May 2021 showed that 68% of interns in Vancouver reported burnout during the pandemic. Female and ethnic minority physicians were more likely to report burnout and consider leaving the profession.

“McMaster’s study is really consistent with what we’ve seen and sheds important light on the higher risk of burnout or emotional exhaustion among women, and particularly troubling, early-career faculty,” Nadia Khan, MD, lead author of the Vancouver survey and chief of general internal medicine at the University of British Columbia, said Medscape Medical News.

“The challenge is that we don’t know how to reverse burnout or significantly reduce burnout,” Khan said. “Strategies that improve resilience, coping, or relaxation in healthcare workers are only part of the solution, but alone are not enough to have a significant impact.”

Anand and his colleagues plan to present their data to McMaster University in hopes that senior management will consider programs to help faculty most affected by burnout. They suggested strategies that encourage faculty to find ways to detach from stress, prioritize and normalize mental health conversations, and minimize isolation. They also highlighted systemic changes aimed at reducing the burden of administrative work, ensuring that digital health tools meet physicians’ needs, and closing the gender pay gap.

During in-depth interviews and focus groups with Vancouver physicians, Khan and her colleagues also asked about sources of burnout and strategies that might help.

“They always felt that systemic changes were important to help reduce burnout,” Khan said. “We now plan to develop strategies to reduce burnout using a systems approach. These approaches may help others in other health and other fields to deal with burnout.”

No funding was received for the development, distribution or analysis of the survey. The survey was supported by the Associate Chair in Equity and Diversity in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University. Anand is supported by the Canada Research Chair in Ethnic Diversity and Cardiovascular Diseases and Heart and Stroke Michael G. DeGroote Chair in Population Health Research. Garner and Khan reported no relevant disclosures.

CJGIM. Published online June 4, 2022. Full Text

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