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Anesthesiology. 2011 Jan;114(1):181-93. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e318201cf6c.

High incidence of burnout in academic chairpersons of anesthesiology: should we be taking better care of our leaders?

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Department of Anesthesiology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA.



Burnout is a work-related psychologic syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, low personal accomplishment, and depersonalization.


By using an instrument that included the MBI-HHS Burnout Inventory, we surveyed academic anesthesiology chairpersons in the United States. Current level of job satisfaction compared with 1 and 5 yr before the survey, likelihood of stepping down as chair in the next 2 yr, and a high risk of burnout were the primary outcomes.


Of the 117 chairs surveyed, 102 (87%) responded. Nine surveys had insufficient responses for assessment of burnout. Of 93 chairs, 32 (34%) reported high current job satisfaction, which represented a significant decline compared with that reported for 1 yr (P = 0.009) and 5 yr (P = 0.001) before the survey. Of 93 chairs, 26 (28%) reported extreme likelihood of stepping down as a chair in 1-2 yr. There was no association of age (P = 0.16), sex (P = 0.82), or self-reported effectiveness (P = 0.63) with anticipated likelihood of stepping down, but there was a negative association between the modified efficacy scale scoĻrgr; = -0.303, P = 0.003) and likelihood of stepping down. Of 93 chairs, 26 (28%) met the criteria for high burnout and an additional 29 (31%) met the criteria for moderately high burnout. Decreased current job satisfaction and low self-reported spousal/significant other support were independent predictors of high burnout risk.


Fifty-one percent of academic anesthesiology chairs exhibit a high incidence/risk of burnout. Age, sex, time as a chair, hours worked, and perceived effectiveness were not associated with high burnout; however, low job satisfaction and reduced self-reported spousal/significant other support significantly increased the risk.

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