Researchers at the Henry Ford Transplant Institute in Detroit surveyed 218 male and female transplant surgeons, aged 31 to 79. Almost half said they had a low sense of personal accomplishment, and 40 percent reported high levels of emotional exhaustion.
“This combination suggests that transplant surgeons are extremely invested in and engaged with their patients but they are frustrated by the process,” study leader Michelle Jesse, a senior staff psychologist, said in a Henry Ford news release.
Many transplant patients are critically ill and take a long time to recover after a transplant. Some die while waiting for a new organ. These factors could affect surgeon’s feelings of personal accomplishment, Jesse said.
“Difficult patient interactions — like patients and families angry or crying while discussing end-of-life decisions — are not uncommon for transplant surgeons,” she said.
“These are hard conversations to have with patients who are sick,” she added. “Our data suggests that [transplant surgeons] who are more comfortable with those conversations may be at less risk for aspects of burnout.”
The study was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.
The researchers plan to investigate ways to reduce burnout in transplant surgeons.
“It’s about creating a culture that allows them to thrive and supports them,” Jesse said. The first step is to understand what contributes to the development of burnout; the next is to tailor interventions to their needs, she explained.
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