Demands, values, and burnout: Relevance for physicians

  • Leiter M
  • Frank E
  • Matheson T
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: T o explore the interaction between workload and values congruence (personal values with health care system values) in the context of burnout and physician engagement and to explore the relative importance of these factors by sex, given the distinct work patterns of male and female physicians.

DESIGN: National mailed survey.

SETTING: Canada.

PARTICIPANTS: A random sample of 8100 Canadian physicians (response rate 40%, N = 3213); 2536 responses (from physicians working more than 35 hours per week) were analyzed.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Levels of burnout, values congruence, and workload, by sex, measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Scale and the Areas of Worklife Scale.

RESULTS: Results showed a moderate level of burnout among Canadian physicians, with relatively positive scores on exhaustion, average scores on cynicism, and mildly negative scores on professional efficacy. A series of multiple regression analyses confirmed parallel main effect contributions from manageable workload and values congruence. Both workload and values congruence predicted exhaustion and cynicism for men and women (P = .001). Only values congruence provided a significant prediction of professional efficacy for both men and women (P = .001) These predictors interacted for women on all 3 aspects of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism, and diminished efficacy). Howevever, overall levels of the burnout indicators departed only modestly from normative levels.

CONCLUSION: W orkload and values congruence make distinct contributions to physician burnout. Work overload contributes to predicting exhaustion and cynicism; professional values crises contribute to predicting exhaustion, cynicism, and low professional efficacy. The interaction of values and workload for women in particular has implications for the distinct work-life patterns of male and female physicians. Specifically, the congruence of individual values with values inherent in the health care system appeared to be of greater consequence for women than for men.

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