Purpose: To characterize resident burnout on a national scale with a large sample size and to identify associated modifiable factors to minimize burnout and improve the quality of residency education.
Method: A survey was mailed to all 1,364 U.S. residents of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in September 2005. The main outcome measures were the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Study, demographic information, and potential burnout predictors, including stressors, satisfaction, self-efficacy, and support systems.
Results: The response rate was 50% (684/1,364). Current second-year through fifth-year residents were included for further analysis (514). Burnout was extremely common among otolaryngology residents. High burnout was seen in 10% of residents (51), moderate burnout in 76% (391), and low burnout in 14% (72). The strongest associated demographic factor was work hours (P < .001). Hours worked was predictive of emotional exhaustion, with exhaustion scores rising by 0.19 for each hour worked (P < .001). Furthermore, there was an 8% (41 resident) reported violation rate of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) 80-hour-workweek limitation. Satisfaction with the balance between personal and professional life, relationship stability, and satisfaction with career choice were negatively associated with burnout (all P < .001).
Conclusions: Burnout is widely prevalent among U.S. otolaryngology residents and is present at greater levels than those seen in chairs or faculty of the same specialty. Work hours predict emotional exhaustion, and adherence to the ACGME 80-hour workweek may help protect against burnout and its deleterious consequences in residents of all specialties.