Physician burnout was already a trending topic within the medical community before 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought national attention to the issue.
Typical stressors such as long hours, poor work-life balance, frustrating insurance denials and cumbersome medical documentation were compounded by new challenges from a novel, deadly virus that killed millions worldwide and necessitated a paradigm shift in care delivery.
The side effects were widespread and readily apparent. By late 2021, research by the American Medical Association, Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medicine found that the prevalence of burnout among physicians was almost 63%, up from less than 40% the previous year. Additionally, research has repeatedly shown that occupational burnout among physicians is considerably higher than with the overall U.S. workforce.
So, where do things stand now? A panel of experts will delve into this topic at ASTRO 2023, the annual meeting of the American Society of Radiation Oncology, Oct. 1-4, in San Diego. The discussion, titled “Getting It All Done – Practical Strategies at All Career Stages,” occurs on Monday, Oct. 2, from 8-9 a.m., in Room 2.
Crystal Seldon Taswell, MD, radiation oncologist and researcher with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, will co-moderate the panel discussion with Leah Katz, MD, from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Seldon Taswell and Katz will provide background on the extent of burnout within radiation oncology and medicine in general. They also will discuss the curriculum gap for residents regarding time management, balancing clinical and research work and learning boundaries for better work-life balance in an always-connected world.
“Radiation oncology and other specialties do an excellent job of teaching resident physicians the clinical side of the job,” said Seldon Taswell, who specializes in treating breast and musculoskeletal cancers. “But often, there is a curriculum void in teaching the intangibles that ensure proper work-life integration and professional satisfaction.”
Seldon Taswell noted that the ASTRO panel discussion was purposely designed to offer practical strategies for practicing physicians at different stages of their careers. Panelists are:
- Sara Beltran Ponce, MD, radiation oncology resident and mother, sharing her personal time-management tips and ways to support physician-parents.
- Matt Katz, MD, physician and parent, explaining how to navigate work-life balance through various career changes and pursue academic interests in a private-practice setting.
- Anthony D’amico, MD, PhD, veteran radiation oncologist and professor, offering insights into building core values into daily routines and mentoring residents/attendings as they seek balance in their lives.
- Christina Henson, MD, early-career physician and parent, discussing how she navigates clinical care, research and resident teaching, as well as the challenges for women in medicine.
“We know from research and physician surveys, in particular, that poor work-life integration is a critical driver of professional burnout,” explained Seldon Taswell. “This phenomenon can lead to higher rates of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce and suicidal thoughts among physicians.”
She added that professional burnout has potentially harmful effects on patient care, including increased medical errors, decreased patient satisfaction and strained relationships among physician colleagues.
“Physician well-being goes hand-in-hand with the health and wellness of patients and our healthcare system in general,” Seldon Taswell said. “I look forward to participating in this important conversation at ASTRO 2023 to ensure physician wellness remains in the national spotlight.”
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