The Role of Leaders, Supervisors, and Individual Surgeons in Reducing Burnout and Promoting Physician Wellness

  • Charles M. BalchEmail author
  • Tait D. Shanafelt
Part of the Success in Academic Surgery book series (SIAS)


Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment. There are both personal and professional consequences of physician burnout. Increasing evidence suggests that physician burnout can adversely affect patient safety and quality of patient care and even contribute to medical errors and, furthermore, that the organizational and practice environment has an important critical role in whether physicians remain engaged or burned out. Most institutions operate under the erroneous framework that burnout and professional satisfaction are solely the responsibility of the individual physician. Extensive research now indicates the well-being and professional satisfaction of physicians have a profound effect on their quality of care and patient adherence with treatment recommendations and satisfaction with medical care. Therefore, there is both a moral and ethical imperative to address physician burnout. In addition, there is a strong professional and business case to reduce physician burnout and promote physician engagement. The leadership qualities of physician supervisors also impact the personal well-being of the physicians they lead in their healthcare organization. The Mayo Clinic experience has demonstrated that sustained and comprehensive efforts by the organization to reduce burnout and promote engagement can make a difference. Mentorship has also been recognized as a key element of career satisfaction because it has a very important influence on career guidance, physician productivity, and personal development. Although it is important for all surgeons to address the issues of personal wellness, it is particularly important for those who are at increased risk based on combinations of high workload, specific surgical specialty, practice environment, age, family responsibilities, and work-home conflict resolution that, in the aggregate, span a spectrum of risk for burnout, depression, and lower mental quality of life. Physicians must be guided from the earliest years of training to cultivate methods of personal renewal, emotional self-awareness, connection with social support systems, and a sense of mastery and meaning in their workplace practice environment.


Burnout Medical errors Physician well-being Mentoring Leadership 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Stanford School of MedicinePalo AltoUSA

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