A study of the relationship between resilience, burnout and coping strategies in doctors

Postgrad Med J. 2017 Aug 9:postgradmedj-2016-134683. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2016-134683. Online ahead of print.


Purpose of the study: The aim of this study was to measure resilience, coping and professional quality of life in doctors.

Study design: A cross-sectional study using an online questionnaire in a single National Health Service trust, including both primary and secondary care doctors.

Results: 283 doctors were included. Mean resilience was 68.9, higher than population norms. 100 (37%) doctors had high burnout, 194 (72%) doctors had high secondary traumatic stress and 64 (24%) had low compassion satisfaction. Burnout was positively associated with low resilience, low compassion satisfaction, high secondary traumatic stress and more frequent use of maladaptive coping mechanisms, including self-blame, behavioural disengagement and substance use. Non-clinical issues in the workplace were the main factor perceived to cause low resilience in doctors.

Conclusions: Despite high levels of resilience, doctors had high levels of burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Doctors suffering from burnout were more likely to use maladaptive coping mechanisms. As doctors already have high resilience, improving personal resilience further may not offer much benefit to professional quality of life. A national study of professional Quality of Life, Coping And REsilience, which we are proposing to undertake, will for the first time assess the UK and Ireland medical workforce in this regard and guide future targeted interventions to improve professional quality of life.

Keywords: Human Resource Management; Mental Health.