AHA Targets Physician Burnout in Academic CV Medicine

Megan Brooks

September 28, 2022

In a new scientific statement, the American Heart Association (AHA) highlights the unique drivers of burnout in academic cardiovascular medicine physicians and proposes system-level and personal interventions to support individual wellness in this setting.

The statement was published online September 19 in the journal Circulation.

"The future cardiovascular health of Americans relies on a well-trained and experienced physician workforce created by rigorous academic medical training," the writing group says.

"Cardiovascular physicians pursuing careers in academic medicine are critical to continuing this mission, which includes providing clinical care for common and increasingly complex disease, educating and training the next generation of physicians/health care workers, and pursuing scientific discovery and innovation to treat and cure disease," write Elisa Bradley, Penn State Health Heart and Vascular Institute, Hershey, Pennsylvania, and co-authors.

Given the multi-tasking nature of academic medicine, exhaustion and burnout uniquely threaten future and early career academic physicians, they say.

Drivers of burnout in this setting include productivity-driven compensation models that force competition for time between clinical care and academics; the requirement for promotion in systems that have not evolved to consider combined clinical and academic expectations; and distinct expectations based on faculty pathway, such as grant funding and publications.

In addition, at the early career and fellow-in-training (FIT) level, drivers of burnout also include significant changes in personal and family life, coupled with long hours and high clinical and research demands, as well as financial strain and educational debt.

A Shared Responsibility

Many of the drivers of burnout in academic medicine are external and beyond the control of a single individual. Therefore, proposed solutions must be largely at the level of organizations, institutions, and government, the writing group says.

These solutions include appropriate mentorship, goal planning, efficiency in the workplace, time management and time "protection," and manageable schedules.

Professional satisfaction "should be a shared responsibility between the clinician and the institution. Each must adapt their values to find a middle ground that meets the needs of both, recognizing that health care is both personal and a business," the writing group says.

"Interventions to support efficiency of practice and a culture of wellness span normalizing and supporting flexible work environments to enhancing clinical support," they add.

To enhance flexible clinical environments, organizations should consider "float teams" to provide care to bridge gaps when a physician is not available, job sharing and flexible hours, and telemedicine, the writing group says.

At the individual level, academic cardiovascular professionals should build individualized strategies to combat fatigue and to promote wellness, focusing on self-care and healthy habits (adequate sleep, healthy nutrition, exercise, outside interests, meaningful social relationships), they advise.

With help, "young academicians can look forward to a fulfilling and long career in academic cardiovascular medicine," they conclude.

This research had no commercial funding. Members of the writing grou p reported no relevant financial relationships.

Circulation. Published online September 19, 2022. Full text

For more from theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology, join us on Twitter and Facebook


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.