Medical School Burnout Common and Leads to Unprofessional Patient Care

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

Medical School Burnout Common and Leads to Unprofessional Patient CareMedical School Burnout is a negative influence on the Attitudes and Professionalism of the Majority of US Medical Students

Burnout was found to be present in the majority of over 2000 US medical students surveyed in 2010 and leads to measurable negative consequences as reported in a Mayo Clinic supported study..

This study reported in JAMA surveyed 4400 medical students with a 61% response rate for 2682 respondents.

Here are the highlights:

1354 of 2566 (52.8%) had medical school burnout (as usual this is not unexpected and OUCH if this is how our future physicians START their careers … toast from the get go! This is Medical School Burnout  … just wait until they are in practice)

Students with medical school burnout were more likely to report engaging in 1 or more unprofessional behaviors than those without burnout (35.0% vs 21.9%; odds ratio [OR], 1.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.59-2.24)

Academic cheating was relatively rare, but roughly 40 percent of third- and fourth-year students admitted to some form of unprofessional conduct in relation to patient care, such as reporting a physical examination finding as normal when they had not performed the examination

Medical school burnout caused students to be less likely to hold altruistic attitudes about a doctor’s role in society including a lower likelihood of wanting to provide medical care for the underserv

Conflict of interest is a big issue in the healthcare industry, yet only 14 percent of respondents had opinions about physician relationships with pharmaceutical companies that were consistent with American Medical Association guidelines, the study found. In fact, 22 percent of respondents thought it was OK to accept $500 from an industry representative for spending 10 minutes to complete a survey.

Liselotte Dyrbye, M.D., the study’s author provided the following quotes to the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

“Our findings suggest future physicians’ altruism, professionalism, and commitment to serve society are eroded by burnout.”

“As our nation reforms its healthcare system, it is essential that physicians advocate for patients, promote the public health, and reduce barriers to equitable healthcare. Burnout appears to be a threat to this process.”

Medical School Burnout begins a Continuous Burnout Cycle in our Physicians

We are first taught the ground rules of self sacrifice and extreme delayed gratification in Medical School. This is where the conditioning begins. Looking forward into private practice, the prevalence of symptomatic burnout averages one third of doctors worldwide, regardless of specialty. This is a consistent, reliable, detrimental trend.

This study of medical school burnout is just one of many showing the roots of the challenge of overwhelming practice stress on our healthcare providers begin very early in the training process.

My question is simple … does being a practicing physician have to be a toxic career choice to half of all medical students and 1/3 of practicing doctors? How can we avoid medical school burnout by setting a different paradigm of “the successful physician” on display. Back in my day, the only measure of success was how BUSY you were. Mindless busy-ness is a recipe for burnout for many.

BTW, students surveyed in this medical school burnout study attended  the following institutions …
Mayo Medical School, the University of Washington, the University of Minnesota, the University of Alabama, the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Here is a link to the original JAMA medical school burnout study abstract


Tags: Physician Burnout