Friday, March 25, 2011

Testing for Burnout

Patricia Lindholm, MD,
2010-2011 MMA President
In this blog, it has been my goal to provide useful resources to those of you who are interested in physician well-being. I hope to continue to do so in the remaining six months of my presidential term. I wish I could give you a feeling for the many connections that I have made with physicians across the country who are also interested in physician wellness. We have been sharing our work with each other in order to highlight studies and programs that exist or are being developed in the U.S. and elsewhere.

One such connection I’ve made is with Heather Fork, M.D., of Austin, Texas, who writes a blog called “Doctor’s Crossing” ( She consults with physicians who face decisions about whether to make a career change or who are battling burnout. I warned her that I would shamelessly borrow some of her material for my blog.

One of the resources Dr. Fork discovered is a simple self test for burnout. It This nonvalidated tool assesses the three dimensions of burnout:
  • Emotional exhaustion;
  • Depersonalization – viewing others as objects, developing cynicism, separating ourselves from the people we serve; and
  • Decreased personal accomplishment – less satisfaction in our work, joyless striving (what I think of as loss of a sense of purpose).

The prevalence of burnout is staggering, and it starts as early as medical school. Tait Shanafelt and Liselotte Dyrbe, two Mayo Clinic colleagues, have published an expanding volume of work documenting how burnout influences professionalism and the degree to which medical students, residents, and practicing physicians are affected by it.

If you think you might be experiencing burnout, take the self-test. If you get a high rating on the burnout scale, I encourage you to find a trusted advisor or therapist to help you refresh your spirit and your view on your work. It is possible to recover from burnout, as I can say that from my own-experience. Do yourself a favor and keep your flame alive!

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