Burnout Among Occupational Physicians: A Threat to Occupational Health Systems?—A Nationwide Cross-sectional Survey

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Abstract

Objectives:

Burnout among occupational health physicians in France was measured in a nationwide cross-sectional survey. The relationships between each dimension of burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and feelings of low personal accomplishment) and stress level, identity threat, and job characteristics were analysed.

Methods:

E-mails were sent out to all occupational physicians working in France by the French Ministry of Labour, inviting them to fill out an online questionnaire. This questionnaire included the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Primary Appraisal of Identity scale. Job characteristics were measured with survey-specific questions.

Results:

Of the 5010 occupational physicians who were potentially contacted, 1670 (33%) completed the online questionnaire. The estimated prevalence of burnout was 11.8%, twice as high as in a sample of French general practitioners (5%). The main characteristic of the burnout pattern was feelings of very low personal accomplishment (63.9%). Job characteristics were only weakly correlated with burnout, but stress level and identity threat were correlated with all three dimensions of burnout. The perceived stress was the main risk factor for emotional exhaustion and identity threat for feelings of low personal accomplishment.

Conclusions:

The health status of occupational physicians is important for both the individual physicians and for the occupational health system. Occupational physicians are unwell, and we probably need to change the way we currently cope with burnout. This is not only a stress-induced syndrome, resulting from high workloads, but a low self-esteem-induced syndrome, too.

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