Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How Wonderful Is The Anesthesia Lifestyle?

We often hear about how great the anesthesiology lifestyle is. After all, it is one of the ROAD specialties that are so highly coveted by medical students. But does reality match perception? How do anesthesiologists actually feel about their work/life balance? The 2016 Medscape Lifestyle survey provides some clues.

Medscape polled over 15,000 physicians on their feelings of burnout and bias for this survey. It doesn't say how many of those were anesthesiologists. If anesthesiologists truly had the fantastic lives that people imagine, you would think that we would all love to come to work every day, make our six figure incomes, and drive home in our German luxury cars to happy spouses and children in our mini mansions in the suburbs without a care in the world. But the survey says otherwise. Exactly 50% of those surveyed said they felt burnout at work. Burnout is defined as lack of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and low sense of personal accomplishment. That sounds like a lot of people for a job that is supposedly heaven on earth. In fact, anesthesiologists are right in the middle of the pack amongst all physicians, with Critical Care, Urology, and Emergency Medicine having the highest rates of burnout and Endocrinology, Ophthalmology, and Psychiatry the least. I'm surprised that urologists feel that miserable since it's considered one of the more humane subspecialties of surgery.

Why do anesthesiologists have such a high rate of burnout? The top reasons given are: too many bureaucratic tasks, spending too many hours at work, feeling like a cog in a wheel, impact of Obamacare, increasing computerization at work, income not high enough, difficult colleagues to work with, difficult patients, and maintenance of certification requirements. This can be broken down to lack of autonomy at work, with surgeons and administrators telling us how to do our jobs all the time. We also have no control over the types of patients we see since we're not the ones who bring them into the hospital. We have no control over reimbursements. And we don't get paid enough for all this aggravation. So yes, anesthesiologists are simply just cogs in a wheel.

Only 32% of anesthesiologists polled said they were happy at work. That number sounds low but is actually more than the average physician. Dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and psychiatrists not surprisingly had the highest happiness ratings. Rheumatology, Critical Care, and Internal Medicine ranked the least happy at work.

There's a lot more information in the Medscape survey that you should check out, including which gender is happier at work and the surprisingly high number of physicians who use marijuana.

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