The Problems With Burnout Research

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Burnout among physicians and physicians-in-training is well established as a potential threat to the health and well-being of health care providers and patients. However, there are myriad problems with current burnout research and its ongoing measurement that threaten the validity of the conclusions. For example, researchers have used differing ways of defining and measuring burnout. Those who have used the Maslach Burnout Inventory vary in recommended use of the instrument and cutoff scores. As a result, the authors suggest that the term “burnout” may be misused and recommend some reconsideration of the meaning of burnout. The measurement and discussion of burnout have strong implications for interventions and policy alike. In this article, the authors review the problems with burnout research and ask important questions about the future directions of research efforts. The authors recommend a consistent measurement approach and perhaps moving toward a focus on physician wellness from a positive psychology perspective.

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