An article published ahead of print in Archives of Surgery [full text here], reported the results of a survey of over 7100 members of the American College of Surgeons. Over 52% said they had experienced at least one work-home conflict in the 3 weeks preceding the survey. Work-home conflicts were more common in those surgeons who were young, female and had young children.
Surgeons with a recent work-home conflict were more likely to have symptoms of burnout, depression, alcohol abuse/dependency, and were less likely to recommend surgery as a career option to their children.
A surgeon I follow on Twitter, Dr. Mary L. Brandt, posted a link to a video produced by Redefining Surgery, “a project sponsored by the Association for Academic Surgery, the Society for University Surgeons, and the American College of Surgeons to provide information for young bright students contemplating a career in Surgery.” This 12 minute series of interviews with surgeons young and old, male and female was intended to show how one can be a surgeon and still have a life.
Here is the video. Just watch a few minutes and you will get the idea.
I watched it all the way to the end just to see if anyone really seemed to believe what they were saying. My reaction was that most of the participants lacked conviction. It all seemed rather forced, as if they were trying to persuade themselves that all was well with the balance between family and work.
So what’s the point?
I am surprised that only about half of surgeons polled admitted to having recent work-home conflicts. When my children were younger and I was a surgical chairman with a fairly manageable schedule, I still faced at least two or three work-home conflicts per week. Despite what the video rather unconvincingly tries to portray, surgery does present huge challenges to maintaining balance in life.
Is there a solution? I’m not sure. I know many people with responsible jobs in finance and business. They have stress, burnout and work-home conflicts too. Also note the recent buzz about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic piece on why women “can’t have it all.”
Maybe there is no answer. I would be interested in hearing what you have to say.