Empathy and burnout of emergency professionals of a health region: A cross-sectional study

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Abstract

The objective of this study is to assess the association between levels of empathy and burnout of emergency professionals in all the assistance levels.

A cross-sectional observational study was conducted in the health region of Lleida and the Pyrenees with 100 professionals from the field of Urgency. Participation reached 40.8%. Empathy and burnout were measured using the Spanish versions of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) and Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) respectively. The total MBI score and its 3 dimensions (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment) were analyzed. The JSPE and MBI scores were categorized into tertiles that were identified as “low,” “moderate,” and “high” levels.

The median (interquartile range) was 112 (102–123) and 37 (27–53.5) for the JSPE and MBI scores respectively. Professionals with high burnout (MBI≥47) showed the lowest levels of empathy, that is, JSPE score of 105 (98–114); those with moderate burnout (31≤MBI < 47) had a JSPE score of 114 (104.5–120.5); and those with low burnout (MBI < 31) had a JSPE score of 120.5 (105.8–127.2). In addition, the highest levels of empathy were associated with the lowest levels of burnout, especially in depersonalization, and to a lesser extent in personal accomplishment. There were no differences in empathy and burnout for any of the other study variables.

Our findings suggest that the empathy of emergency professionals is associated with burnout. Hence, reducing professional burnout could help keep emergency professionals’ empathy levels high, which in turn would ensure a better quality of care. Nevertheless, it would be necessary to carry out prospective studies to describe the profiles of burnout and empathy as well as their association and evolution.

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