Assessment of the well-being of significant others of cardiothoracic surgeons

Jamie D. Ungerleider, Ross M. Ungerleider, Les James, Andrea Wolf, Melissa Kovacs, Robert Cerfolio, Virginia Litle, David T. Cooke, K. Candis Jones-Ungerleider, Michael Maddaus, Jessica G.Y. Luc, Abe DeAnda, Cherie P. Erkmen, Kathy Bremner, Ross M. Bremner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: We aimed to evaluate how the current working climate of cardiothoracic surgery and burnout experienced by cardiothoracic surgeons influences their spouses and significant others (SOs).

METHODS: A 33-question well-being survey was developed by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery Wellness Committee and distributed by e-mail to the SOs of cardiothoracic surgeons and to all surgeon registrants of the 2020 and 2021 American Association for Thoracic Surgery Annual Meetings with a request to share it with their SO. The 5-item Likert-scale survey questions were dichotomized, and associations were determined by χ 2 or independent samples t tests, as appropriate.

RESULTS: Responses from 238 SOs were analyzed. Sixty-six percent reported that the stress on their cardiothoracic surgeon partner had a moderate to severe influence on their family, and 63% reported that their partner's work demands didn't leave enough time for family. Fifty-one percent reported that their partner rarely had time for intimacy, 27% reported poor work-life balance, and 23% reported that interactions at home were usually or always not good-natured. SOs were most affected when their partner was <5 years out from training, worked in private vs academic practice, and worked longer hours. Having children, particularly younger than age 19 years, and a lack of workplace support resources further diminished well-being.

CONCLUSIONS: The current work culture of cardiothoracic surgeons adversely affects their SOs, and the risk for families is concerning. These data present a major area for exploration as we strive to understand and mitigate the factors that lead to burnout among cardiothoracic surgeons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-402.e3
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • burnout
  • cardiothoracic surgeon
  • family
  • significant other
  • spouse
  • well-being


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