Physician burnout is a concern to us. To what degree does it begin in residency and what can we do to minimize this? Kemper et al (10.1542/peds.2019-1030) surveyed residents in 34 training programs in 2016, 43 in 2017, and 49 in 2018. She asked residents to respond to questions in the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a well validated instrument. Sadly, burnout rates were over 50% in all years. The four key factors associated with increased risk of burnout were stress, sleepiness, dissatisfaction with work/life balance, and having been associated with a recent medical error whereas the four associated with lower risk of burnout were empathy, self-compassion, quality of life, and confidence in providing compassionate care.
What can we do about burnout? We asked Dr. Jeanine Ronan from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to weigh in with an accompanying commentary (10.1542/peds.2019-3210). She suggests that burnout may start even before residency training due to some of the factors identified in the Kemper et al. study. She also notes the importance of teaching residents self-reflection through mindfulness as a prevention strategy. Unfortunately, there is no well-studied approach to teach this, although the AAP’s “Resilience in the Face of Loss or Grief Curriculum” could help. Dr. Ronan also suggests other ways to combat burnout including (1) ways to promote joy in the workplace; (2) a more supportive learning environment; and (3) easier access to mental health services to help residents before burnout gets worse. There are a lot more strategies offered in the study and commentary— consider implementing these in residency training programs and possibly for medical students. Reading this study and commentary may be just the solution for burnout you are looking for whether you are a trainee or seasoned pediatrician. Read both and learn more.