Burnout. Depression. Suicide. More than two-thirds (68.4%) of U.S. ophthalmology residents responding to a national survey reported that peers in their programs have faced these issues within the past year.1 More than a fourth (26.3%) acknowledged being involved in a patient case in which these problems adversely affected a medical judgment or outcome.
The findings paint a troubling picture of the burdens placed on ophthalmic residents. And it is one that is at odds with the perceptions of residency program directors. In another survey by the same research team, only 25% of program directors expressed concern about resident wellness.2
A surprise. While depression and burnout have been associated with resident training, the extent of stress among residents reported in this survey was surprising, said coauthor Paul B. Greenberg, MD, MPH, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Findings. The survey, the first to assess the status of resident wellness in U.S. ophthalmic education from a resident’s point of view, contained 12 multiple-choice questions and provided room for comment. It was emailed to all (N = 1,048) ophthalmology residents in the United States, yielding a 23.0% response rate (n = 241). Results included the following:
- Just one-fourth (26.7%) of respondents reported that their department had a formal resident wellness program.
- Of residents in schools with wellness programs, 45.6% said their departments did not promote a culture of wellness.
- Some 38% of residents did not know if they had access to free counseling services. (In yet another disparity between ophthalmic program director and resident perceptions, 98% of program directors had reported the availability of free counseling services in their programs.)
- Among residents who were aware of counseling services, 26.3% did not know how to access them.
When asked what most hindered their participation in wellness programs, 25% cited a lack of time, while 16% cited the duration or scheduling of their shifts. Other barriers to participation included academic stressors, paperwork and administrative require ments, and understaffing at clinical sites.
Rx for wellness. Dr. Greenberg noted that he hopes the study will encourage residents and graduate medical education leaders to better appreciate the value of wellness programs.
For starters, he proposed 2 solutions: “Educate residents regarding the accessibility of wellness programs, and give residents time to attend them.”
1 Tran EM et al. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018;136(6):695-701.
2 Tran EM et al. J Surg Educ. 2018;75(1):95-103.
Relevant financial disclosures—Dr. Greenberg: None.
For full disclosures and the disclosure key, see below.
Full Financial Disclosures
Dr. Connon Atelerix: O.
Dr. Demirci Castle Biosciences: C.
Dr. Fant Alcon: C; BSI: C; Clinical Research Consultants: E,O; CorNeat Vision: C; EyeYon Medical: C; HumanOptics: C; Oasis Medical: C; OptoQuest: C; PromiSight: E,O; Rashmivu: C; Reichert/Ametek: C; University of Louisville Coulter Foundation: C; University of Michigan Coulter Foundation: C; VEO Ophthalmics: E,O.
Dr. Greenberg None.
Dr. Snyder Alcon: S; Bausch + Lomb: S; Glaukos: S; Haag-Streit: C; HumanOptics: C,P; VEO Ophthalmics: O; W.L. Gore: C.
||Consultant fee, paid advisory boards, or fees for attending a meeting.
||Employed by a commercial company.
||Lecture fees or honoraria, travel fees or reimbursements when speaking at the invitation of a commercial company.
||Equity ownership/stock options in publicly or privately traded firms, excluding mutual funds.
||Patents and/or royalties for intellectual property.
||Grant support or other financial support to the investigator from all sources, including research support from government agencies (e.g., NIH), foundations, device manufacturers, and/or pharmaceutical companies.
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