An exploratory study of resident burnout and wellness

Acad Med. 2009 Feb;84(2):269-77. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181938a45.


Purpose: Physicians have a higher rate of burnout compared with the general population, and burnout's origin can be traced to residency training. Little evidence exists documenting the causes of burnout, and there is even less evidence on protective factors. The goal of this exploratory study was to determine which resident-identified stressors are associated with the presence of burnout and which resident-identified wellness factors are associated with the absence of burnout.

Method: In the fall of 2006, residents from 13 specialties completed a demographics questionnaire, a survey of factors that promote burnout and wellness, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory.

Results: From a pool of 395 residents, 150 (38%) completed the questionnaires. Of 32 burnout factors, 27 were significantly associated with at least one burnout scale. Pessimism was the only burnout factor associated with all three burnout scales; 11 other burnout factors were associated with at least two burnout scales. Of 29 wellness factors, 25 were significantly associated with at least one burnout scale, indicating a lack of burnout. Use of prescription medications was the only wellness factor associated with all three burnout scales, indicating low burnout. Thirteen other wellness factors were associated with at least two of the scales.

Conclusions: Significantly more research is needed to further define and measure wellness. Program directors should consider multiple burnout and wellness factors associated with burnout (or its absence) when designing treatment interventions. The aim should be to identify and bolster wellness factors that protect from burnout while minimizing the stressors that cause it.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Social Support
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology