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January 2, 2020

Prescribing Time to Temporize Burnout: Are We Hacking at the Branches, or Striking at the Root?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
  • 2Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago, Illinois
  • 3Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020;146(2):103-105. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2019.3731

Burnout is harming our medical students, residents, fellows, and colleagues. What is at stake is not only our professional well-being but also the safety of our patients. A 1-point increase in a surgeon’s self-reported emotional exhaustion score is associated with a 5-point increase in errors; this negative association is doubled for a 1-point increase in depersonalization scores.1 Burnout exacts a staggering toll in safety and quality of care, lost productivity, diminished patient satisfaction, and turnover.2 This cost is compounded by the mental and physical fatigue experienced by clinicians and their families. We are at an inflection point. Most physicians now report symptoms of burnout, and the moral imperative to address physician wellness is nowhere more poignant than in physician suicide—estimated at 1 physician per day—including our trainees, with their whole careers ahead of them.3

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