Do incoming residents vary in measures of emotional status even prior to residency training?

Int J Med Educ. 2022 Jul 29;13:198-204. doi: 10.5116/ijme.62cb.f308.


Objectives: To determine whether Empathy, Emotional Intelligence, and Burnout scores differ by specialty in incoming residents.

Methods: This is a single-site, prospective, cross-sectional study. Three validated survey instruments, the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy, Maslach Burnout Inventory, and Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, were written into a survey platform as a single 125-question Qualtrics survey. Over three academic years, 2015-2017, 229 incoming residents across all specialties were emailed the survey link during orientation. Residents were grouped by incoming specialty with anonymity assured. A total of 229 responses were included, with 121 (52.8%) identifying as female. Statistical analysis was performed using the Analysis of Variance or Kruskal-Wallis test, Chi-Square or Fisher's Exact test, and Independent Samples t-test or Mann Whitney U test. A Bonferroni correction was applied for pairwise comparisons.

Results: Family Medicine had a higher median Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy score (127) compared to Emergency Medicine (115), (U=767.7, p=0.0330). Maslach Burnout Inventory depersonalization and personal accomplishment subcategory scores showed a significant difference between specialties when omnibus tests were performed, but pairwise comparisons with emergency medicine residents showed no differences. Differences were found in the Maslach Burnout Inventory categories of Depersonalization (χ2(8, N=229) =15.93, p=0.0434) and Personal Accomplishment level (χ2(8, N=229) =20.80, p=0.0077) between specialties.

Conclusions: Differences in measures of well-being exist across specialties, even prior to the start of residency training. The implication for educators of residency training is that some incoming residents, regardless of specialty, already exhibit troublesome features of burnout, and resources to effectively deal with these residents should be developed and utilized.

Keywords: burnout; emotional intelligence; empathy; residents; specialty.

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional* / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Physicians* / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires