Education and Career Development| Volume 285, P205-210, May 2023

Surgeon Burnout and Usage of Personal Communication Devices: Examining the Technology “Empowerment/Enslavement Paradox”

Published:January 23, 2023DOI:



      Access to patients’ electronic medical records (EMRs) on personal communication devices (PCDs) is beneficial but can negatively impact surgeons. In a recent op-ed, Cohen et al. explored this technology “empowerment/enslavement paradox” and its potential effect on surgeon burnout. We examined if there is a relationship between accessing EMRs on PCDs and surgeon burnout.


      This was a cohort study with retrospective and prospective arms. Trainees and attendings with a background in general surgery completed the Maslach Burnout Index for Medical Personnel, a validated survey scored on three areas of burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low personal accomplishment). Data on login frequency to EMRs on PCDs over the previous 6 mo were obtained. Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to determine if burnout and login frequency were associated.


      There were 52 participants included. Residents were 61.5% (n = 32) of participants. The mean login frequency over 6 mo was 431.0 ± 323.9. The mean scores (out of 6) for emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment were 2.3 ± 1.1, 1.9 ± 1.2, and 4.9 ± 0.8, respectively. There was no correlation between burnout and logins. Residents had higher median depersonalization scores (2.3 versus 1.2, P = 0.03) and total logins (417.5 versus 210.0, P < 0.001) than attendings. Participants who overestimated logins had higher median emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scores than those who underestimated (2.6 versus 1.4, P = 0.03, and 2.4 versus 0.8, P = 0.003, respectively).


      Using EMRs on PCDs is common, but frequency of logins did not correlate with burnout scores in this study. However, perception of increased workload may contribute to experiencing burnout.

      Graphical abstract


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