Background: Burnout has negative effects on work performance and patient care. The current standard for burnout assessment is the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), a well-validated instrument consisting of 22 items answered on a 7-point Likert scale. However, the length of the MBI can limit its utility in physician surveys.
Objective: To evaluate the performance of two questions relative to the full MBI for measuring burnout.
Design and participants: Cross-sectional data from 2,248 medical students, 333 internal medicine residents, 465 internal medicine faculty, and 7,905 practicing surgeons.
Measurements and main results: The single questions with the highest factor loading on the emotional exhaustion (EE) ("I feel burned out from my work") and depersonalization (DP) ("I have become more callous toward people since I took this job") domains of burnout were evaluated in four large samples of medical students, internal medicine residents, internal medicine faculty, and practicing surgeons. Spearman correlations between the single EE question and the full EE domain score minus that question ranged from 0.76-0.83. Spearman correlations between the single DP question and the full DP domain score minus that question ranged from 0.61-0.72. Responses to the single item measures of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization stratified risk of high burnout in the relevant domain on the full MBI, with consistent patterns across the four sampled groups.
Conclusions: Single item measures of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization provide meaningful information on burnout in medical professionals.