Internal-medicine residents are experiencing high rates of burnout, dissatisfaction with work-life balance and symptoms of emotional exhaustion, according to a new study published in the Sept. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The problems often are exacerbated by educational debt, the study noted.
High burnout, exhaustion among residents: study
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Medical School surveyed nearly 75% of the country's 2008 internal-medicine residency class in a study funded by the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine Program on Physician Well-being. Symptoms of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (as measured by the question "How often do you feel you've become more callous toward people since you started your residency?") increased as training progressed.
Almost 15% of the respondents reported that their quality of life was "as bad as it can be" or "somewhat bad," and just under 33% reported being somewhat or very dissatisfied with their work-life balance.
The authors noted that the residents surveyed were all subject to the 2003 rule limiting them to an 80-hour workweek. "These results suggest that distress remains common despite these regulations," they wrote.
However, the researchers said they found little evidence of a negative impact on learning—as measured by comparing 2008 and 2009 scores on the Internal Medicine In-Training Examination.
"Although strong relationships between aspects of well-being, debt and medical knowledge were identified in this study, we found no relationships with learning," the authors wrote. "Because much of what is learned during residency training occurs in the context of potentially stressful direct patient-care activities, perhaps learning during residency training is relatively protected."
The researchers found also that quality of life and satisfaction with work-life balance were rated as higher among residents who "moonlighted" at a second job outside of regular residency training hours. In fact, the researchers wrote that moonlighting was not associated with burnout in their study and "and was actually unexpectedly associated with improved" quality of life.
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