Burnout in inpatient-based versus outpatient-based physicians: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Hosp Med. 2013 Nov;8(11):653-64. doi: 10.1002/jhm.2093. Epub 2013 Oct 25.


Background: Burnout is a syndrome affecting the entirety of work life and characterized by cynicism, detachment, and inefficacy. Despite longstanding concerns about burnout in hospital medicine, few data about burnout in hospitalists have been published.

Purpose: A systematic review of the literature on burnout in inpatient-based and outpatient-based physicians worldwide was undertaken to determine whether inpatient physicians experience more burnout than outpatient physicians.

Data sources: Five medical databases were searched for relevant terms with no language restrictions. Authors were contacted for unpublished data and clarification of the practice location of study subjects.

Study selection: Two investigators independently reviewed each article. Included studies provided a measure of burnout in inpatient and/or outpatient nontrainee physicians.

Data extraction: Fifty-four studies met inclusion criteria, 15 of which provided direct comparisons of inpatient and outpatient physicians. Twenty-eight studies used the same burnout measure and therefore were amenable to statistical analysis.

Data synthesis: Outpatient physicians reported more emotional exhaustion than inpatient physicians. No statistically significant differences in depersonalization or personal accomplishment were found. Further comparisons were limited by the heterogeneity of instruments used to measure burnout and the lack of available information about practice location in many studies.

Conclusions: The existing literature does not support the widely held belief that burnout is more frequent in hospitalists than outpatient physicians. Better comparative studies of hospitalist burnout are needed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / psychology*
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Hospitalists / psychology*
  • Hospitalists / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Physicians / classification
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data