Burnout common in gastroenterologists

Occupational burnout is common in gastroenterologists, especially among female and younger practitioners, an international review has found.

The prevalence of burnout in gastroenterologists ranged from 18-64%, according to a meta-analysis based on eleven studies that reported high rates of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and low personal accomplishment in the specialty.

While there was considerable variability in burnout between countries, a common and unsurprising risk factor was work-related pressure (high workload, longer working hours, work–life imbalance, and non-medical duties during work), according to researchers led by Dr John Ong of Cambridge University.

Other more unexpected factors associated with burnout included female gender, with a meta-analysis showing that female gastroenterologists had a 50% higher risk of experiencing more anxiety, stress or burnout than their male counterparts.

“The association between female gender and anxiety may be consistent with population-based studies and having added domestic commitments may have contributed to stress in female gastroenterologists,” the authors wrote.

“Nonetheless, having organisation-led initiatives, such as mentoring schemes and easily accessible well-being support services, can help lower anxiety, stress, and burnout risk.”

Age under 50 was also a commonly reported factor associated with burnout.

The report authors highlighted relationships with colleagues as a surprisingly frequent stressor for burnout. These factors included lack of support, conflict at work, high expectations, being reprimanded by seniors, and accusations of inappropriate behaviour.

“These modifiable stressors could potentially be addressed through measures such as improving communication and mindfulness-based activities,” they suggested.

However there was not enough consistent data across different countries to determine whether performing  endoscopic procedures was related to reports of stress and burnout, the authors said.

The report found that burnout was understudied in gastroenterology and drawing conclusions from different studies was difficult because they lacked consistent methodology in use of burnout scores such as the 22‐item MBI.

“Gastroenterology often involves long working hours, heavy workloads, large volumes of patients, invasive procedures, and high amounts of stress. Furthermore, the current coronavirus disease (COVID‐19) pandemic may have also compounded this risk, with early reports from severely affected countries suggesting that gastroenterologists have been placed under significantly higher amounts of stress due to the outbreak. Therefore, the scale of this problem must first be understood within gastroenterology in order to compel institutional improvements,” they concluded

The findings are published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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