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August 03, 2016

On burnout and well-being: Nassetta addresses UAB AMWA chapter

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Lauren Nassetta webLauren Nassetta, M.D.Burnout among physicians is on the rise in the United States as a whole, according to Medscape’s 2016 survey results; however, female physicians are more likely to experience burnout than their male counterparts, which often in turn leads to symptoms of depression. Lauren Nassetta, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics, addressed the prevalence of burnout and its impact on women in the medical field at the July 27 meeting of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) UAB Chapter.

Throughout her presentation, titled “Burnout becomes water: an interactive conference on well-being,” Nassetta invited the 40 women in attendance to provide real-time feedback through She asked participants to provide immediate, anonymous responses to questions dealing with their own burnout, its causes and mechanisms that seemed most helpful in addressing it.

The lecture is part of a monthly series of lectures and workshops offered by the UAB chapter of AMWA, headed by chapter president Lauren Walter, M.D. The mission of the chapter, which is sponsored and supported by the School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion, is to engage the most critical issues facing women faculty at the UAB School of Medicine, as well as to provide networking opportunities, resources and support. At the monthly lunchtime meetings, AMWA addresses a variety of topics and needs. June’s meeting focused on leadership opportunities for women faculty; August’s meeting will be primarily social, and September’s will include a membership drive and fundraiser.

Nassetta was invited to speak on burnout because this is an increasingly pressing issue for women in medicine and science, as longitudinal research indicates that burnout causes depression, rather than the other way around. Nassetta discussed the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which utilizes numerous tools to evaluate whether an individual is emotionally exhausted, depersonalized, and/or demoralized at his or her job, and then asked women to use their phones to send the causes of their burnout up onto the screen at the front of the room. Phrases flashed into being: “Mom guilt,” one read. “Work-life imbalance,” “Trying to be everything to everyone,” and “No time for myself,” others wrote. Murmurs of understanding rippled through the group.

Nassetta then launched into the subject of self-care, indicating that exercise, vacation and meditation can all be protective where burnout is concerned. “The opposite of burnout is engagement,” she said, noting that even small measures to generate a personal sense of power, like standing in a power position or taking several deep breaths, can help restore a sense of wellness and control. She encouraged faculty to care for themselves, at least in part because burnout makes it more difficult to be effective, engaged physicians.

AMWA meetings are open to all women faculty in the UAB School of Medicine. Click here for more information.