Differences in Occupational Burnout Among Primary Care Professionals

J Am Board Fam Med. 2021 Nov-Dec;34(6):1203-1211. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2021.06.210139.


Background: Occupational burnout is a major concern for personal well-being and patient care. We examined burnout among primary care providers (PCPs), medical residents, behavioral health providers (BHPs), nurses, and other clinical and nonclinical primary care team members.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study, nested within a larger randomized trial. Participants completed a validated 9-item burnout measure with 3 domains: depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and personal accomplishment. Multivariable multilevel linear regression with a random intercept for each practice was used to determine mean differences in burnout across professional roles.

Results: Overall burnout rates varied by professional role: PCPs 70%, medical residents 89%, BHPs 59%, nurses 66%, other clinicians 68%, and nonclinical professionals 70%. Compared with nonclinical professionals, residents experienced more burnout in more domains, followed by PCPs. PCPs, residents, and nurses reported significantly worse depersonalization and exhaustion scores. Nonclinical professionals had worse accomplishment scores than all clinical professionals except for residents. This study revealed moderate-to-high levels of burnout among primary care professionals.

Discussion: Clinicians may be experiencing aspects of burnout more intensely than their nonclinical colleagues, and this may be most true for residents and PCPs. Based on these variations, interventions to mitigate burnout may need to be tailored by professional role.

Keywords: Cross-Sectional Studies; Depersonalization; Health Personnel; Occupational Burnout; Primary Health Care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires