Those numbers are pretty staggering, and not a lot better than they were in the bad old days before work hour restrictions. In addition to the obvious idea that society doesn’t have much interest in a generation of exhausted and unhappy doctors, burnout has been fairly conclusively linked to increased rates of medical errors.
I can’t help but think that we might have something to learn from Lagat. Surgical and medical residencies in the United States don’t have a lot of time built in for rest — beyond the one day per week, 4 weeks per year that you’re allowed away from the hospital — which is recommended as time to be spent studying for in-training exams.
Of course, as even Lagat would tell you, this approach probably isn’t one-size-fits all. Context matters, and resident doctors are developing skills and a knowledge base that might well suffer from periodic extended breaks.
On the other hand, it’s certainly reasonable to think that our aversion to rest — both in terms of weekly work requirements and paucity of periodic medium-term sabbaticals — is driven by a culture that venerates past methods and lionizes hard work (although track is really no different in that respect).
If medical training isn’t a marathon, it’s at least a hotly-contested 5K race. The question is, are we okay with 69% of our athletes burning out? Or should we try to be more like Lagat?
- Elmore LC, Jeffe DB, Jin L, et al. National Survey of Burnout Among US General Surgery Residents. J Am Coll Surg. 2016;223(3):440-451. doi:10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2016.05.014