Surgeon Burnout May Jeopardize Patient Safety

Michal Hubka, MD

Michal Hubka, MD

Personal and professional responsibilities that are overly demanding can have a major impact on burnout and job satisfaction for cardiothoracic surgeons—and this can have significant patient safety consequences. 

“Surgeons who are at high risk of burnout may depersonalize their colleagues and patients, which then impairs the safety of their care,” said Michal Hubka, MD, from Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, who will moderate Tuesday’s Patient Safety Symposium on burnout in the specialty. “If you don’t perceive others as human beings and are just going through the motions, that’s a real problem.”

The session will outline causes of workplace burnout and offer practical solutions for addressing the variety of factors involved, with a focus on counseling, coaching, and mentorship. 

“The speakers will discuss resources and strategies to solve this problem on many levels, from the individual to the systematic,” said co-moderator Dawn S. Hui, MD, from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. 

Beyond Burnout: What You Should Know and Do Going Forward

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Room 208

Dr. Hubka will present the results of an STS survey on physician wellness in cardiothoracic surgery. The key discoveries include:

  • Job satisfaction was higher among surgeons with only one support staff member versus those surgeons with more than one support staff member. 
  • Better financial compensation and improved personal and organizational alignment were drivers of job satisfaction, but did not influence burnout rates.
  • Job dissatisfaction and burnout scores peaked in the group practicing for 11-15 years and tracked until 20 years in practice, when burnout scores decreased and job dissatisfaction scores increased.
  • Of surgeons who participated in the survey, 34% reported that they don’t perceive their colleagues as resilient or possessing the appropriate emotional tools to deal with stress; 17% of respondents said this of themselves. 

“One of the biggest threats to a lasting career is a lack of personal resilience and coping skills. How are we going to deal with it?” asked Dr. Hubka.

Attendees should note that this 2-hour session fulfills the Patient Safety requirement of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery’s 5-year and 10-year Milestones for Maintenance of Certification.