Half of Internal Medicine Residents Report Burnout

Cheryl Clark, September 7, 2011

Despite limitations placed on the number of hours medical residents spend working, more than half of internists in training exhibit signs of burnout and suboptimal quality of life, according to a large study of workforce stress from the Mayo Clinic.

Overall burnout and high levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were reported by 8,343 of 16,192" students responding, or 51.5%.

In fact, quality of life was described as being "as bad as it can be" or "somewhat bad" by 14.8%, and 28.4% described it as "neutral." Only 15.3% described it "as good as it can be," while another 41.5% said it was "somewhat good."

The report collected information on internal medicine residents who took the Internal Medicine In-Training Examination or IM-ITE survey during the 2008-2009 academic year. Results are published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association's special theme issue on medical education.

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"Distress is common, and some might argue this comes with the job," said Colin P. West, MD, associate professor of medicine and biostatistics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN in a recorded interview posted on jama.com.

This is important, he continued, because "factors such as physician burnout, depression, job dissatisfaction, and low quality of life have been associated with negative effects on important outcomes like patient care, medical and medication errors, and other suboptimal care practices and decreased patient satisfaction."

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