Background: Prevalent among resident physicians, burnout has been associated with absenteeism, low job satisfaction, and medical errors. Little is known about the number and quality of interventions used to combat burnout.
Methods: We performed a systematic review of the literature using MEDLINE and PubMed databases. We included English-language articles published between 1966 and 2007 identified using combinations of the following medical subject heading terms: burnout, intervention studies, program evaluation, internship and residency, graduate medical education, medical student, health personnel, physician, resident physician, resident work hours, and work hour limitations. Additional articles were also identified from the reference lists of manuscripts. The quality of research was graded with the Strength of Evidence Taxonomy (SORT) from highest (level A) to lowest (level C).
Results: Out of 190 identified articles, 129 were reviewed. Nine studies met inclusion criteria, only two of which were randomized, controlled trials. Interventions included workshops, a resident assistance program, a self-care intervention, support groups, didactic sessions, or stress-management/coping training either alone or in various combinations. None of the studied interventions achieved an A-level SORT rating.
Conclusions: Despite the potentially serious personal and professional consequences of burnout, few interventions exist to combat this problem. Prospective, controlled studies are needed to examine the effect of interventions to manage burnout among resident physicians.