Korean gastroenterologists were suffering from a high level of burnout, a study showed. Burnout refers to physical and psychological exhaustion due to prolonged work and stress, causing lethargy in the end.
Doctors have various tasks, such as medical treatment, surgery, and research. Excessive work causes multiple health problems such as stress, musculoskeletal disorders, and cardiovascular and digestive system diseases.
A research team of Seoul National University Bundang Hospital studied local gastroenterologists, measuring their work-life imbalance and analyzing how it affected their health.
The researchers surveyed 222 gastroenterologists performing endoscopy and patient care at 44 local medical institutions from April to October in 2018. They asked the doctors to write daily activities and life patterns every day for more than two weeks.
The survey showed that Korean gastroenterologists working at secondary and tertiary hospitals spent an average of 71.5 hours for work per week, without any differences regarding sex. The doctors spent 16.6 hours per week on housework and parenting. Women spent more time doing housework (20.7 hours) compared to men (14.3 hours).
In the survey on health status, 89.6 percent of the respondents said they had experienced musculoskeletal pain, 53.6 percent, gastrointestinal symptoms, and 69.9 percent, mental symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
The more they had musculoskeletal pain or, the more they performed endoscopy (more than 60 per week), the higher the prevalence of serious mental symptoms that could affect daily life was.
Out of the 222, 143 (64.4 percent) demonstrated burnout. By sex, 70.4 percent of the women showed burnout versus 59.7 percent of the men. A woman doctor in their 30s even showed depersonalization, a serious burnout symptom.
Such symptoms led to low job satisfaction. Women physicians were less likely to say they would become a doctor if they were to choose a job again, compared to men. Even if they become a doctor, only a small percentage of the women said they would choose gastroenterology.
“This study is meaningful in that it showed Korean gastroenterologists, especially female doctors in their 40s and younger, have serious burnout symptoms,” Kim Na-young, a professor at SNU Bundang Hospital. “As the physical and mental health problems of doctors could cause serious problems and threaten the health of patients, we urgently need to establish a system to improve the working environment for doctors and to support women doctors' continuous work.”
The study was sponsored by the Korea Federation of Women’s Science & Technology Associations, organized by the Korea Medical Women’s Association, and published online by Digestive Disease and Sciences.
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