Career Fit and Burnout Among Academic Faculty

Departments of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.
Archives of internal medicine (Impact Factor: 17.33). 05/2009; 169(10):990-5. DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2009.70
Source: PubMed


Extensive literature documents personal distress among physicians and a decrease in their satisfaction with the practice of medicine over recent years. We hypothesized that physicians who spent more of their time in the aspect of work that they found most meaningful would have a lower risk of burnout.
Faculty physicians in the Department of Internal Medicine at a large academic medical center were surveyed in the fall of 2007. The survey evaluated demographic variables, work characteristics, and career satisfaction. Burnout was measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Additional questions evaluated which professional activity (eg, research, education, patient care, or administration) was most personally meaningful and the percentage of effort that was devoted to each activity.
Of 556 physicians sampled, 465 (84%) returned surveys. A majority (68%) reported that patient care was the aspect of work that they found most meaningful, with smaller percentages reporting research (19%), education (9%), or administration (3%) as being most meaningful. Overall, 34% of faculty members met the criteria for burnout. The amount of time spent working on the most meaningful activity was strongly related to the risk of burnout. Those spending less than 20% of their time (approximately 1 d/wk) on the activity that is most meaningful to them had higher rates of burnout (53.8% vs 29.9%; P<.001). Time spent on the most meaningful activity was the largest predictor of burnout on multivariate analysis (odds ratio, 2.75; P = .001).
The extent to which faculty physicians are able to focus on the aspect of work that is most meaningful to them has a strong inverse relationship to their risk of burnout. Efforts to optimize career fit may promote physician satisfaction and help to reduce attrition among academic faculty physicians.

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    • "While the samples for these studies are somewhat limited, they raise concerns about the challenge of balancing academic and clinical work. When this balance does not allow a faculty member to spend enough time engaging in the most meaningful aspect of his or her work, this can be particularly problematic and has been found to correlate with emotional exhaustion and burnout (Shanafelt et al. 2009). Given these pressures, the need to improve our understanding of what makes faculty highly engaged with their work, productive, and satisfied has never been greater. "
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    • "Indeed, it has been reported that pre-employment information increased satisfaction and reduced turnover rates of primary care physicians (Williams & Konrad 1995). Furthermore, faculty members, who spent more time in the type of work (research, education, patient care, or administration) that they found most meaningful , were at a lower risk of burnout (Shanafelt et al. 2009). Hence, our hope that creating realistic expectations in medical students and counseling them with a view of helping them optimize their career will indeed reduce future distress. "
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    • "In longitudinal normative samples of physicians, however, only reciprocal and no clear one-way directional relationships between job stress and emotional exhaustion have been found [15,16]. A few studies from the U.S. have found an association between number of work hours (one component of work load) and burnout among physicians [17-19], while other studies (mainly European) have failed to do so [4,20-22]. This may be due to longer work hours in the U.S. A reduction in number of work hours/week, however, has been shown to be associated with reduction in emotional exhaustion, not only among U.S. residents [23-25], but also in a cohort of Norwegian physicians [26]. "
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