Prevalence and factors associated with burnout among frontline primary health care providers in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review

Gates Open Res. 2018 Jun 11:2:4. doi: 10.12688/gatesopenres.12779.3. eCollection 2018.


Background: Primary health care (PHC) systems require motivated and well-trained frontline providers, but are increasingly challenged by the growing global shortage of health care workers. Burnout, defined as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low personal achievement, negatively impacts motivation and may further decrease productivity of already limited workforces. The objective of this review was to analyze the prevalence of and factors associated with provider burnout in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Methods: We performed a systematic review of articles on outpatient provider burnout in LMICs published up to 2016 in three electronic databases (EMBASE, MEDLINE, and CAB). Articles were reviewed to identify prevalence of factors associated with provider burnout. Results: A total of 6,182 articles were identified, with 20 meeting eligibility criteria. We found heterogeneity in definition and prevalence of burnout. Most studies assessed burnout using the Maslach Burnout Inventory. All three dimensions of burnout were seen across multiple cadres (physicians, nurses, community health workers, midwives, and pharmacists). Frontline nurses in South Africa had the highest prevalence of high emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, while PHC providers in Lebanon had the highest reported prevalence of low personal achievement. Higher provider burnout (for example, among nurses, pharmacists, and rural health workers) was associated with high job stress, high time pressure and workload, and lack of organizational support. Conclusions: Our comprehensive review of published literature showed that provider burnout is prevalent across various health care providers in LMICs. Further studies are required to better measure the causes and consequences of burnout and guide the development of effective interventions to reduce or prevent burnout.

Keywords: primary health care; burnout;.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

Grants and funding

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [OPP1130892]