Career satisfaction and burnout among U.S. neurosurgeons: A feasibility and pilot study

Paul Klimo*, Michael Decuypere, Brian T. Ragel, Shirley McCartney, William T. Couldwell, Frederick A. Boop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objective: Neurosurgery is a challenging and stressful field. Excessive stress and professional dissatisfaction can lead to medical errors, negatively impact patient care, and cause physician burnout. Our objective is to develop and critically evaluate a survey measuring professional stress and satisfaction and to obtain preliminary data on sources and degree of stress and the prevalence of burnout among American neurosurgeons. Methods: A 107-item questionnaire was developed and sent to 169 American neurosurgeons to evaluate career satisfaction and stressors, quality of professional life, and burnout. Participants were also asked about the survey itself. Most variables were evaluated using the Likert-type scale. Burnout was measured using the validated Maslach Burnout Inventory. Results: The 85 (50%) respondents were typically male, full-time, board-certified neurosurgeons. Ninety-five percent were satisfied as neurosurgeons (73% very satisfied). Most (88%) would choose neurosurgery again as a career, but only 55% would recommend it to a child. Low salary/income, low collections/billing, and uncertainty regarding future earnings/health care reform were reported as stressful factors by the majority of participants. Compared with published norms, the median scores were lower for emotional exhaustion and depersonalization and higher for personal accomplishment. The burnout rate was 27%. Conclusion: Our survey was well received and, according to respondents, encompassed the major issues associated with career stress, satisfaction, and burnout but needs to be shortened. Respondents were generally satisfied with their career but identified several major stressors. A larger study to identify predictors of career satisfaction/dissatisfaction will help generate dialogue on improving the quality of professional life for neurosurgeons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E59-E68
JournalWorld neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Burnout
  • Career
  • Lifestyle
  • Maslach Burnout Inventory
  • Neurosurgery
  • Satisfaction
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Career satisfaction and burnout among U.S. neurosurgeons: A feasibility and pilot study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this