Family Medicine Faculty Time Allocation and Burnout: A Residency Research Network of Texas Study

J Grad Med Educ. 2020 Oct;12(5):620-623. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-19-00930.1.


Background: Burnout among graduate medical education (GME) faculty is a well-documented phenomenon, but few studies have explored the relationship between faculty time allocation and burnout.

Objective: Our objectives were to (1) characterize time allocation of academic family physicians, (2) measure the difference between actual versus preferred time spent on various tasks, and (3) examine this difference in relation to burnout.

Methods: From January to March 2017, family medicine GME faculty across Texas completed anonymous online surveys for burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory) and occupational stress (Primary Care Provider Stress Checklist). They also reported the percentage of time they actually versus prefer to allocate across 5 categories of tasks: direct patient care, nondirect clinical duties, teaching, administration, and research. Difference scores between actual and preferred time allocation were calculated and correlated with burnout and stress scores.

Results: Of the faculty physicians surveyed, 53% provided complete responses (103 of 195). On average they engaged in their preferred amount of time on direct patient care (30% of their time) and administrative duties (15%). Meanwhile, faculty preferred to increase time spent teaching (37% to 41%, P = .002) and conducting research (4% to 7%, P ≤ .001), while reducing time spent on nondirect clinical duties (14% to 7%, P < .001). Those with higher misalignment in their weekly schedules reported higher levels of professional burnout and occupational stress.

Conclusions: Many family medicine GME faculty spent 20% or more of their time in a manner incongruent with their preferences, which may place them at higher risk for burnout and occupational stress.