Burnout among medical students interested in neurosurgery during the COVID-19 era

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2021 Nov:210:106958. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2021.106958. Epub 2021 Sep 28.


Objective: The novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has posed unprecedented new stressors to medical student education. This national survey investigated the prevalence of burnout in U.S. medical students interested in pursuing neurosurgical residency during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: A 24-question survey was sent to all American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) medical student chapter members. The abbreviated Maslach Burnout Inventory (aMBI) was used to measure the following burnout metrics: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. Bivariate analyses were conducted and multivariate analyses were performed using a logistic regression models.

Results: 254 medical students were included (response rate of 14.5%). The majority were male (55.1%), White (66.1%), and between their 2nd and 3rd years in medical school (62.6%). Burnout was identified in 38 (15.0%) respondents, a rate lower than reported in the pre-COVID era. In multivariate analysis, burnout was significantly associated with choosing not to pursue, or feeling uncertain about pursuing, a medical career again if given the choice (OR = 3.40, p = 0.0075), having second thoughts about choosing to pursue neurosurgery (OR = 3.47, p = 0.0025), attending a medical program in the Northeast compared to the Southeast (OR = 0.32, p = 0.027) or Southwest U.S. (OR = 0.30, p = 0.046), and indicating that one's future clinical performance will have worsened due to COVID-19 (OR = 2.71, p = 0.025).

Conclusions: Our study demonstrates relatively low rates of burnout among U.S. medical students interested in pursuing neurosurgery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings also demonstrate multiple factors may aid in early identification of burnout, highlighting potential opportunities for intervention.

Keywords: Burnout; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Medical student; Neurosurgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / diagnosis
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Neurosurgery / education
  • Neurosurgery / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Young Adult