7 Aug 2009

One in five doctors suffering burnout, study shows

8:15 pm on 7 August 2009

One in five public hospital medical consultants are suffering from burnout, Otago University research suggests.

Lead researcher, senior lecturer Dr Lois Surgenor, says the research aimed to test the perception that a high level of burnout among hospital consultants was the professional norm, and the resulting number is smaller than expected.

The research investigated 267 consultants working in Christchurch and has just been published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Dr Surgenor says a majority of respondents reported a high level of job satisfaction, robust emotional wellbeing, healthy work patterns and no problems with burnout.

Among the 20% of doctors who reported burnout, low job satisfaction and long working hours were risk factors.

The study suggests there should be more focus on consultants who do have burnout, because of possible effects on patient care and staff turnover.

But the union representing senior doctors says more research is needed to determine how much of a problem burnout is in the medical profession.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell suspects the findings may under-represent the extent of the problem nationally.

Mr Powell says more research needs be done to see how Canterbury compares with other areas, and how provincial hospital doctors fare.

Dr Surgenor says it was a snapshot study and better information would come from tracking workplace issues over time.