Survey Results Explore Burnout, Stress Among CV Program Directors

While most cardiovascular program directors (PDs) are satisfied with their roles, burnout and stress are prevalent, especially among women and those who are younger and/or in large, university-based programs. These findings are part of an annual survey developed by ACC’s Program Directors and Graduate Medical Educators Section, the results of which were published Oct. 18 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The survey, which used the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education’s database to identify all of the U.S.-based accredited cardiovascular fellowship programs, contained 34 questions examining satisfaction, stress and burnout among fellowship PDs, as well as perceptions of burnout in trainees and demographic information related to cardiovascular fellowship program trainees and leadership. More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents were male and a little more than half (54%) were involved with university-based programs.

Overall results found the vast majority of PDs (80%) were satisfied with their current job, with 96% citing interactions with fellows as the primary reason for their satisfaction. However, 45% of PDs reported feeling a significant amount of stress in their job and 21% reported some symptoms of burnout, compared with 36% who reported enjoyment without stress or burnout. Women PDs, early-career PDs and PDs in large, university-based programs were among those most likely to report higher levels of stress or symptoms of burnout, while men, late-career PDs, and PDs in smaller or community-based programs were more likely to report higher rates of satisfaction and enjoyment. Of those surveyed, 17% suggested a high likelihood of resigning in the next year, largely due to feeling overwhelmed in their role.

“Symptoms of burnout in our study of cardiology fellowship PDs were similar to broader studies of cardiologists,” said Michael W. Cullen, MD, FACC, lead author of the study. “However, concerns regarding limited administrative support and burdensome regulatory requirements unique to fellowship PDs remain.”

Moving forward, the authors conclude that “additional work is necessary to mitigate dissatisfaction stress, and burnout among cardiology fellowship PDs.”

In a related editorial comment, Jeffrey T. Kuvin, MD, FACC, and Jonathan Halperin, MD, FACC, write that future of the cardiovascular profession depends on PD wellness. “As noted in this paper, PD burnout is present, real, and must be addressed, perhaps with a different approach to that provided for general cardiologists. Time is valuable and needed for PDs to fulfil their roles. Helping PDs keep up with the demands of the job will require constant analysis to provide support, dedicated time, effort, and funding to limit burnout and ensure stability in training programs. We must remember that PDs are ultimately responsible for educating the next generation of cardiologists.”

“The PD role is an incredibly special one that is vital to the future of our field, as Drs. Kuvin and Halperin note,” said Katie L. Berlacher, MD, MS, FACC. “One of the best resources to combat PD burnout that I regularly use is the awesome community of PDs that exists in the ACC. There is always someone willing to offer advice, to brainstorm solutions, or just listen. I am very thankful for that group – and would encourage all PDs to engage in it!”

Clinical Topics: Cardiovascular Care Team, Prevention, Stress

Keywords: Family Characteristics, Demography, Cardiology, Accreditation, Training Support, Burnout, Professional, Education, Medical, Graduate, Data Management, Universities, Cardiologists, Leadership

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