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Single Item Measures of Emotional Exhaustion and Depersonalization Are Useful for Assessing Burnout in Medical Professionals

  • Colin P. West
  • Liselotte N. Dyrbye
  • Jeff A. Sloan
  • Tait D. Shanafelt
Brief Report

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

Burnout has negative effects on work performance and patient care. The current standard for burnout assessment is the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), a well-validated instrument consisting of 22 items answered on a 7-point Likert scale. However, the length of the MBI can limit its utility in physician surveys.

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate the performance of two questions relative to the full MBI for measuring burnout.

DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS

Cross-sectional data from 2,248 medical students, 333 internal medicine residents, 465 internal medicine faculty, and 7,905 practicing surgeons.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS

The single questions with the highest factor loading on the emotional exhaustion (EE) (“I feel burned out from my work”) and depersonalization (DP) (“I have become more callous toward people since I took this job”) domains of burnout were evaluated in four large samples of medical students, internal medicine residents, internal medicine faculty, and practicing surgeons. Spearman correlations between the single EE question and the full EE domain score minus that question ranged from 0.76–0.83. Spearman correlations between the single DP question and the full DP domain score minus that question ranged from 0.61–0.72. Responses to the single item measures of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization stratified risk of high burnout in the relevant domain on the full MBI, with consistent patterns across the four sampled groups.

CONCLUSIONS

Single item measures of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization provide meaningful information on burnout in medical professionals.

KEY WORDS

burnout measurement graduate medical education medical practice 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a grant from the Saint Marys Hospital Sponsorship Board. The authors wish to acknowledge the participation of the American College of Surgeons, particularly Charles M. Balch, MD, Gerald J. Bechamps, MD, and Thomas R. Russell, MD, and the site leaders for each medical school, Steven J. Durning, MD (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences), Anne M. Eacker, MD (University of Washington School of Medicine), William Harper, MD (University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine), F. Stanford Massie, MD (University of Alabama School of Medicine), Christine Y. Moutier, MD (University of California, San Diego), David V. Power, MD (University of Minnesota Medical School), and Matthew R. Thomas, MD (Mayo Clinic).

Conflict of Interest

None disclosed.

Supplementary material

11606_2009_1129_MOESM1_ESM.doc (25 kb)
Figure 1 a Pooled risk of high emotional exhaustion burnout and 95% confidence intervals by level of response to “I have become more callous toward people since I took this job”. b Pooled risk of high depersonalization burnout and 95% confidence intervals by level of response to “I have become more callous toward other since I took this job.” (DOC 25 KB)

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin P. West
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Liselotte N. Dyrbye
    • 3
  • Jeff A. Sloan
    • 2
  • Tait D. Shanafelt
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of General Internal MedicineMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biomedical Statistics and InformaticsMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Division of Primary Care Internal MedicineMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  4. 4.Division of HematologyMayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  5. 5.Department of MedicineMayo ClinicRochesterUSA

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