"Health systems need to take steps to help ensure basic safety, financial and personal needs of cardiology clinicians especially in the wake of COVID-19," Mehta said. "There are also still many unknowns with emerging variants and as our communities open more, some people are choosing not to get vaccinated, not to mention on top of the already taxed health systems, there are additional burdens of caring for patients with cardiovascular disease who delayed care and are now sicker than they would have been if they presented earlier."
The mini-Z survey on burnout was sent via email in November 2020 to 10,019 cardiologists, fellows-in-training and cardiovascular team members. A total of 1,288 people responded to the survey (456 U.S. and 436 international cardiologists, 128 trainees and 268 cardiovascular team members). Since peaks in COVID-19 disease activity differed by region, questions were structured to ask about feelings of burnout before COVID-19 and during the peak of COVID-19 in their region.
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Burnout rates were lower among international cardiology professionals compared to U.S.-based peers. This data will be harder to interpret as each region has its own contributors to burnout that may differ, and there may be some inherent bias in who completed the survey, Mehta said.
Supporting clinician wellness by providing potential solutions to alleviate some of the job pressures associated with burnout has become a strategic priority for the American College of Cardiology, said Mehta, who serves as chair of the ACC's Task Force on Clinician Well-Being.
"Burnout is a metric, but well-being is the goal and what we are striving for," she said. "While we are resilient, these results show that we really need to be focusing on fixing the work environment, including ensuring that we have enough PPE, feeling valued and safe at work, improving team dynamics and efficiencies, which are all essential whether there is COVID-19 or not. Organizations need to focus on improving workforce care not just patient care."
The study is limited in that it relied on respondents' own interpretation of burnout. Mehta and her team will be examining the data more closely to understand gender and career stage differences.
Mehta will present the study, "Impact of COVID-19 on the Global Cardiovascular Workforce: The ACC 2020 Well Being Study," on Sunday, May 16, at 2 p.m. ET / 18:00 UTC.
ACC.21 will take place May 15-17 virtually, bringing together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists from around the world to share the newest discoveries in treatment and prevention.