Burnout is common among the workforce and an extreme negative component of clinician well-being that needs to be addressed for the provision of high-quality patient care, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Journal of Cardiology, which includes a joint opinion from the American College of Cardiology (ACC), American Heart Association (AHA), European Society of Cardiology (ESC), and the World Heart Federation (WHF).
Clinician burnout has been defined as “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of low personal accomplishment in a perceived stressful work environment.”
Previous research has revealed key components, including workload and job demands, efficiency and resources, control over work, work-life integration, alignment of individual and organizational values, social support/community at work, and meaning in work, which can impact clinician burnout at suboptimal levels.
Unhealthy stressors and workloads foster a negative work environment, which can lead to poor results for clinician mental and physical health, as well as for the clinical practice. The well-being of health care workers can also be directly reflected in the quality of patient care.
Based on findings from previous research, professional ramifications of clinician burnout include increased frequency of medical errors and disruptive behavior, lower quality of care, decreased patient satisfaction, and a loss of professionalism with a decreased level of empathy. Authors of the report also noted the serious personal consequences of clinician burnout, including anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Data from 2,274 US cardiologists and fellows in-training showed that one-quarter of this study population were experiencing burnout, approximately 50% were stressed; only 23.7% of participants reported that they were enjoying their work.
Along with the myriad challenges affecting health care providers, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an additional strain on clinicians, leading to increased levels of burnout. High patient mortality, safety concerns, and prolonged work hours and demands have adversely affected clinicians. However, although these issues are still ongoing, it has opened the conversation to mental health care, eliminating stigmas that were previously in place.
The underrepresentation of women in cardiology has led to more stressors leading to burnout, including lack of career promotion, financial inequality, disparities in mentorships, and a sense of not belonging within the profession.
An important step in fostering healthier work environments and reducing clinical stressors is reducing mental health stigmas and properly assessing mental health in the workplace. A major step towards this is surveying the issues of medical professionals globally. Medical specialty societies, including the ACC, AHA, ESC, and the WHF, play a key role in fostering meaningful progress through multiple approaches, including advocating for changes in medical policy, developing cardiology-specific tools for practice, creating a sense of community, expanding initiatives in diversity, and connecting physicians globally.
Authors of the report concluded, “The ACC, AHA, ESC, and [WHF] acknowledge that clinician well-being is paramount to providing high-quality patient care and are committed to improving the well-being of the cardiovascular workforce.”
Disclosure: Some study authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.
Mehta SM, Achenbach S, Poppas A, Elkind MSV, Pinto FJ. Clinician well-being. Addressing global needs for improvements in the health care field. Published online July 3, 2021. JACC. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2021.04.043