Surgeons unhappy with OR resources, work-life balance

Surgeons point to a lack of control over operating rooms and other resources as a reason why they are dissatisfied, according to a study in the journal Academic Medicine, published Wednesday.

Researchers asked members of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons in 2010 about their work and satisfaction levels. They found that surgeons, particularly general surgeons in urban areas, were unhappy with insufficient access to and control over resources, such as lack of an OR during the day and routine delays in urgent operations, according to a Friday research announcement from St. Michael's Hospital, an affiliation of University of Toronto. They also thought there was a disconnect between hospital administration and clinical priorities.

In addition, surgeons generally want more work-life balance, according to St. Michael trauma surgeon Najma Ahmed.

"The current generation is more family-centric and team-oriented and, while still achievement-oriented, is less interested in personal sacrifices to achieve career success or financial rewards," she said.

A June study in the Archives of Surgery found that more than half (52.5 percent) of surgeons reported a work-home conflict in a three-week period. They also were more likely to screen positive for symptoms of depression, drink more alcohol and be less satisfied with their relationship with their significant other, as well as cut their work hours or switch employment.

With the number of general surgeons in the United States between 1981 and 2005 dropping from 7.68 per 100,000 people to 5.69--a figure likely to worsen with demand from an aging population--researchers also found that the number of surgeons carries some financial weight. General surgeons can generate as much as 40 percent of U.S. hospital revenue, according to the St. Michael's statement.

On the flip side, surgeons did get job satisfaction from resolving patient problems quickly and enjoyed the social aspect of their work, such as interacting with supportive colleagues and patients.

"Surgeons we surveyed had a passion for their work that made the long hours involved inconsequential," Ahmed said.

The researchers encouraged a team-oriented model to acute care, as well as separating emergency and elective surgical care, which would reduce the burden on any one surgeon, they noted.

For more information:
- see the research announcement
- check out the study abstract

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