Resident Wellness in US Ophthalmic Graduate Medical Education: The Resident Perspective

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Wellness programs have become important strategies to combat burnout and depression among residents. However, the resident perspective on wellness in ophthalmic graduate medical education has not been solicited on a national level.


To report on residents’ views of wellness initiatives in ophthalmic graduate medical education and identify potential strategies for promoting resident wellness.

Design, Setting, and Participants

In this national survey of ophthalmology residents in the United States, conducted from September 21 to November 3, 2017, all 1048 ophthalmology residents listed on the websites of ophthalmology residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education were emailed an anonymous online survey consisting of 12 multiple-choice questions with options for free-text answers. Residents also received a mailed letter with a survey link and a $1 incentive, as well as 2 reminder emails. Survey responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics, and the free-text answers were categorized.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Main outcomes include residents’ reports regarding their personal experiences with wellness during residency, support systems provided by their programs, and opportunities for improving wellness in ophthalmic graduate medical education.


Of 1048 residents, 241 (23.0%) responded to the survey. Most respondents (121 of 177 [68.4%]) reported that their programs faced an issue involving depression, burnout, or suicide among residents within the past year; 26.3% of respondents (61 of 232) reported being involved in a case when resident fatigue, burnout, or depression adversely affected a medical outcome or judgment. Fewer than half of the respondents (110 of 241 [45.6%]) reported that their residency programs placed moderate or major emphasis on promoting a culture of resident wellness, and only 26.7% (63 of 236) reported that their department had a formal resident wellness program. The most commonly cited barrier to resident wellness (59 of 236 [25.0%]) was a lack of time to attend wellness programs.

Conclusions and Relevance

These results suggest that there is a substantial burden of burnout and depression among US ophthalmology residents and that there are opportunities to boost wellness in ophthalmic graduate medical education by making wellness curricula more accessible to residents and ensuring that residents have time to attend wellness programs.

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