Clin Colon Rectal Surg 2019; 32(06): 407-414
DOI: 10.1055/s-0039-1692709
Review Article
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Surgeon Burnout: Defining, Identifying, and Addressing the New Reality

James C. Senturk
1  Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Nelya Melnitchouk
1  Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
07 September 2019 (online)


Surgeon wellness is a multidimensional commitment that encompasses occupational, mental, physical, emotional, and social domains. Loss of professional control, autonomy, and flexibility; inefficient processes; disjointed workplace relationships and goals; excessive administrative burdens; poor work–life balance; and frustrations with medical record and order entry systems have all been associated with burnout. Described as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and loss of a sense of personal accomplishment, burnout can have myriad untoward consequences. The strong link between surgeons' personal and professional identities can lead to a perfect storm of burnout, depression, compromised patient safety and quality of care, physician job loss and career dissatisfaction, substance abuse, damage to personal relationships, and suicide. The alarming scope of this problem cannot be confined to a single specialty or practice setting and is expected to increase without much needed changes to surgeon work practices and work environments. A heightened focus on wellness in the workplace with attention to improving workflow, scheduling, collaboration, and resource allocation is a welcome step taken by several institutions and championed by professional societies. Much more research is needed to reliably gauge the overall effectiveness of these approaches, further address the nuances of burnout as it applies specifically to surgeons, and ensure that members of the surgical workforce remain at their peak throughout the duration of their careers.