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A Solution to Burnout – More Vacation? 

February 27, 2024

Exciting news! JournalFeed and Dr. Amal Mattu’s Top Picks Video Series is set to GO LIVE this week! It’s free for Gold Spoon members or you can just get the video series. Watch this trailer and get excited!

Written by Jason Lesnick

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This survey of US physicians found taking more than 3 weeks of vacation per year was associated with lower rates of burnout, while spending 30 minutes or more per vacation day on patient-related work was associated with increased burnout. 

Leave the laptop behind on vacation
This cross-sectional survey of 3,024 US physicians from November 2020 to March 2021 examined the number of vacation days taken annually, the amount of work done while on vacation, and the associations with burnout and professional fulfillment. Burnout was measured using the Maslach Burnout Index, while professional fulfillment was measured using the Stanford Professional Fulfillment Index. 

Data collected included: number of vacation days in the last year, time spent working on patient care and other professional tasks per typical vacation day, electronic health record inbox coverage while on vacation, barriers to taking vacation, and standard demographics. 

59.6% took ≤ 15 days of vacation in the last year, and 19.9% took ≤ 5 days! 70.4% of physicians performed patient-care related tasks on vacation, and 33.1% of docs worked ≥ 30 minutes or more per day while on vacation. Among specialties with at least 30 respondents, EM physicians had the lowest rate of >3 weeks of vacation (23.8%), the highest rate of taking ≤ 5 days of vacation (30.8%), but also the lowest rate of performing patient-related tasks while on vacation (19.5%).

Unsurprisingly, working ≥30 minutes per day while on vacation was associated with higher rates of burnout. There were associations with decreased burnout if either taking >3 weeks of vacation per year or having full EHR inbox coverage while on vacation. Unfortunately, of those surveyed only 49.1% reported having full EHR inbox coverage while on vacation.

How will this change my practice?
This is exactly the type of information that should empower you to take more time off – go book that vacation! We know that longevity in this career is of the utmost importance; burnout is high in our field, and our careers are short and trending shorter. I agree with the authors that this paper should be used to advocate for system level changes to help decrease burnout.

Vacation Days Taken, Work During Vacation, and Burnout Among US Physicians. JAMA Netw Open. 2024 Jan 2;7(1):e2351635. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.51635.

What are your thoughts?