Distress and burnout among genetic service providers

Genet Med. 2009 Jul;11(7):527-35. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181a6a1c2.


Purpose: To determine the nature, sources, prevalence, and consequences of distress and burnout among genetics professionals.

Methods: Mailed survey of randomly selected clinical geneticists (MDs), genetic counselors, and genetic nurses.

Results: Two hundred and fourteen providers completed the survey (55% response rate). Eight discrete sources of distress were identified forming a valid 28-item scale (alpha = 0.89). The greatest sources of distress were compassion stress, the burden of professional responsibility, negative patient regard, and concerns about informational bias. Genetic counselors were significantly more likely to experience personal values conflicts, burden of professional responsibility, and concerns about informational bias than MDs or nurses. Burnout scores were lower among those practicing more than 20 years and nurses. Distress scores were positively correlated with burnout and professional dissatisfaction (P < 0.0001). Eighteen percent of respondents think about leaving patient care, and burnout was the most significant predictor. Predictors of burnout included greater distress, fewer years in practice, working in university-based settings, being a genetic counselor or an MD, and deriving less meaning from patient care.

Conclusions: Genetic service providers experience various types of distress that may be risk factors for burnout and professional dissatisfaction. Interventions to reduce distress and burnout are needed for both trainees and practitioners.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Burnout, Professional / etiology
  • Data Collection
  • Genetic Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology