More than a third of heart docs report burnout. Here are some of the biggest contributing factors

Doctor pausing with a frown on his face
More than 1 in 3 cardiologists in the U.S. are feeling burned out, according to results of a new survey presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific sessions, being held virtually together with the World Congress of Cardiology. (Getty/Wavebreakmedia)

More than 1 in 3 cardiologists in the U.S. are feeling burned out, according to results of a new survey presented at the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC's) annual scientific sessions, being held virtually together with the World Congress of Cardiology.

Of the just over 2,000 heart doctors who responded to the survey, 35.4% reported burnout and nearly 44% reported they were stressed. The current survey was developed after several add-on questions specific to burnout were included on the ACC’s most recent Professional Life Survey and revealed roughly one-quarter of cardiologists reported burnout in 2015.

"This is alarming,” said Laxmi Mehta, M.D., director of preventive cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at Ohio State University and the study’s lead author, in a statement. “Not only can burnout affect the quality of care they provide to patients, it also has many other negative personal and professional ramifications.”

Cardiologists who reported saying they were burned out and stressed were more likely to report a hectic work environment, lack of control over workload and insufficient time for documentation. They also reported having higher electronic medical record usage at home.

RELATED: The high cost of physician burnout: $4.6B a year

The survey also found:

  • Of those who reported burnout, 24% said they were experiencing one or more symptoms such as emotional exhaustion, about 10% said they had chronic symptoms of burnout and nearly 2% said they felt completely burned out to the point of needing to seek outside help.
  • Midcareer heart doctors with between eight and 21 years of experience most often reported being burned out (45.3%) when compared with early- or late-career cardiologists (35.4% and 31.5%, respectively).
  • Burnout was more common in women than men, occurring in 45.3% and 33.5%, respectively.

The survey found that the amount of time cardiologists clock each week was directly associated with burnout—those working more than 60 hours a week reporting higher rates of exhaustion and other symptoms of burnout (41.5%), followed by those working 40-60 hours a week (29.5%).

Adverse work environment, major medical errors and plans to switch jobs were more likely to be reported by burned out or stressed cardiologists.

“Cardiology remains a highly desirable medical specialty to pursue, but adverse work environments are consistently associated with burn out,” Mehta said. “We need to remember work-life balance is important and to take care of our patients and ourselves.”

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