Objective: Burnout is prevalent among vascular surgery trainees. Here we aim to identify modifiable risk factors for burnout in vascular surgery training, to facilitate the development of programs to enhance and sustain trainee well-being. Methods: The Association of Program Directors in Vascular Surgery issued the Annual Training survey in the fall of 2018 to all trainees. The survey contained items to assess frequency of burnout, as well as mentorship, training environment, and stress coping mechanisms using an abbreviated COPE (Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced) inventory. Results: Of 628 surveys issued, the response rate was 30% (n = 188). Respondents indicated that the majority of programs offer mentorship opportunities (n = 150 [83%]) that are longitudinal throughout the duration of training (n = 140 [77%]). Fifty-eight percent (n = 109) indicated there was an appropriate balance between learning and productivity in their program, with more respondents leaning toward too much clinical productivity (n = 57) and fewer toward too much learning (n = 19). Forty-five percent of respondents indicated feeling burnout at least weekly (n = 81). The burnout group was less likely to report an appropriate balance between clinical productivity and learning (49.4% vs 67.7%; P <.001), as well as a lower frequency of mentorship opportunities (72.1% vs 92.7%; P <.001). Certain coping skills were used more frequently in the burnout group, including self-distraction, disengagement, humor, self-blame, and substance use. In multivariate analysis, frequent use of self-blame conferred a 9.847-fold increased risk (95% confidence interval, 2.114-45.871) of burnout (P =.003), while feeling appropriately challenged by the faculty was significantly protective (odds ratio for burnout, 0.158; 95% confidence interval, 0.031-0.820; P =.03). Conclusions: The protective effect against vascular surgery trainee burnout conferred by the availability of mentorship suggests that an expansion and emphasis on mentorship in training may help to mitigate trainee burnout. Mentorship may also be a suitable channel to assess for an appropriate level of challenge, as well as for an appropriate balance between clinical productivity and learning that, when present, are also protective against burnout. Furthermore, the correlation between the frequent use of certain coping skills and burnout highlight this as an area for intervention, potentially through a combination of mentor modeling and formal training on healthy stress-related coping strategies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
K.E.H. was supported by NIH grant 1F32HL137292 during this project.
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