Orthopaedic residents and attending physicians who report having a supportive spouse show lower levels of burnout and psychological distress than those without supportive spouses. However, little is known about the experiences of the spouses. This nationwide study examines burnout, psychological distress, and marital satisfaction of the spouses and significant others (collectively referred to hereafter as spouses) of orthopaedists in training and in orthopaedic practice in an academic setting.Methods:
Employing previously reported methodology, 259 spouses of orthopaedic residents and 169 spouses of full-time orthopaedic faculty completed a voluntary, anonymous survey. The survey included three validated instruments (the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the General Psychological Health Questionnaire-12, and the Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale) and three novel question sets addressing demographic information, relationship issues, stress, and work/life balance.Results:
Psychological distress was noted in 18% of resident spouses compared with only 10% of faculty spouses (p = 0.014). Resident spouses reported greater loneliness (p < 0.0009) and stress (p = 0.03) than faculty spouses. Among working spouses, 30% of resident spouses and 13% of faculty spouses showed high levels of emotional exhaustion (p < 0.003). Twenty-eight percent of employed resident spouses and 5% of employed faculty spouses showed problematic levels of depersonalization (p < 0.0001). Twenty-six percent of employed resident spouses and 12% of employed faculty spouses showed a diminished sense of personal accomplishment (p = 0.012). Marital satisfaction was high for both resident and faculty spouses. Decreased satisfaction correlated with excessive mate irritability and fatigue that precluded their mate’s involvement in family activities. A gratifying sex life, full-time work outside the home, and spending more than ninety minutes a day with their mate correlated significantly with marital satisfaction.Conclusions:
Many orthopaedic resident spouses showed elevated levels of burnout, and a substantial number showed psychological distress. Spouses of orthopaedic faculty surgeons showed low rates of burnout and psychological distress. While both resident and faculty spouses reported high levels of marital satisfaction, the engagement of their surgeon mates had a considerable impact on the well-being of the relationship.