Burnout among surgeons in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cohort study

East Midlands Surgical Academic Network (EMSAN) Burnout Study Group , Jonathan Houdmont, Prita Daliya, Elena Theophilidou, Alfred Adiamah, Juliet Hassard, Dileep N. Lobo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Surgeon burnout has implications for patient safety and workforce sustainability. The aim of this study was to establish the prevalence of burnout among surgeons in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This cross-sectional online survey was set in the UK National Health Service and involved 601 surgeons across the UK of all specialities and grades. Participants completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory and a bespoke questionnaire. Outcome measures included emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and low personal accomplishment, as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS).

A total of 142 surgeons reported having contracted COVID-19. Burnout prevalence was particularly high in the emotional exhaustion (57%) and depersonalisation (50%) domains, while lower on the low personal accomplishment domain (15%). Burnout prevalence was unrelated to COVID-19 status; however, the greater the perceived impact of COVID-19 on work, the higher the prevalence of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Degree of worry about contracting COVID-19 oneself and degree of worry about family and friends contacting COVID-19 was positively associated with prevalence on all three burnout domains. Across all three domains, burnout prevalence was exceptionally high in the Core Trainee 1–2 and Specialty Trainee 1–2 grades.

These findings highlight potential undesirable implications for patient safety arising from surgeon burnout. Moreover, there is a need for ongoing monitoring in addition to an enhanced focus on mental health self-care in surgeon training and the provision of accessible and confidential support for practising surgeons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalWorld Journal of Surgery
Issue number1
Early online date26 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 02 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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