Comparison of Burnout and Empathy Among Millennial and Generation X Residents and Fellows: Associations with Training Level and Race but Not Generation Affiliation

Abstract

Objective

The authors examine the associations of generational affiliation on empathy and burnout in a sample of millennial (born between 1982 and 2000) and Generation X (born between 1965 and 1981) residents and fellows.

Methods

At a single large institution during the 2013–2014 academic year, residents and fellows were asked to complete the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy and Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Responses were combined with GME database content. Multivariable regression analysis included generation affiliation, race, gender, and post-graduate year (PGY) as covariates.

Results

The study sample included 388 millennial (mean age = 29.3) and 200 Generation X trainees (mean age = 34.6), with the response rate being 96.5%. Groups were statistically different by gender (p < 0.001) and PGY level (p < 0.001). After adjustment for gender, race, and PGY level, no statistically significant differences were found between millennial and Generation X groups in mean scores of empathy or burnout. Empathy was associated with PGY level (p = 0.0008) and race (p < 0.0001), with decreased empathy in advanced training levels and increased empathy in Hispanic/Latino race. Burnout rate was associated with PGY level (p = 0.001) but not generational affiliation (p = 0.6). The MBI depersonalization subscale was associated with PGY level (p < 0.001) and race (p = 0.0034), with decreased depersonalization in advanced training levels and Hispanic/Latino race. The emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment MBI subscales did not demonstrate any significant associations in the multivariable regression model.

Conclusions

In a compared sample of millennial and Generation X residents and fellows, PGY level and Hispanic/Latino race (though not generation affiliation) were significantly associated with both empathy and MBI depersonalization subscale scores, while only PGY level was significantly associated with burnout rate. This study presents further evidence of de-escalating burnout and declining empathy over the course of medical residency.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Amy Windover, PhD, for her guidance in use of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication’s registry.

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Correspondence to Brandon Hamm.

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Susannah Rose has received speaker fees and travel expenses from the Siemens Healthineers and PanAgora for presentations on patient experience. On behalf of all other authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Hamm, B., Karafa, M., Yu, P.C. et al. Comparison of Burnout and Empathy Among Millennial and Generation X Residents and Fellows: Associations with Training Level and Race but Not Generation Affiliation. Acad Psychiatry 44, 388–393 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-020-01226-9

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Keywords

  • Empathy
  • Burnout
  • Millennial
  • Generation X
  • Residents