Stress and Burnout in Training; Requiem for the Surgical Dream

David B.T. Robinson*, Osian P. James, Luke Hopkins, C. Brown, C. Bowman, T. Abdelrahman, Michael J. Pollitt, Richard J. Egan, Damian M. Bailey, W. G. Lewis

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


    Objective: Burnout among trainee doctors is common with as many as two-thirds reporting poor health. This study aimed to assess burnout in a cohort of UK core and higher general surgical trainees. Design: The Maslach Burnout Inventory for Medical Personnel was distributed to 158 surgical trainees to evaluate emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and personal accomplishment (PA). High EE (≥27) and DP (≥10), low PA (≤33) scores were taken to indicate burnout. Setting: A single UK (Wales) Deanery. Participants: One hundred responses were received; 65 core surgical trainees, 31 Higher Surgical Trainees (HST), and 4 not specified. Results: Median EE, DP, and PA scores were 22.0 (range 2-50), 7.5 (0-25), and 36.0 (19-47), respectively. High burnout by domain was: EE (n = 33), DP (n = 39), PA (n = 34), with 59% of trainees demonstrating burnout in ≥1 one domain, with strong interdomain correlation (EE:DP r = 0.351, p < 0.001; EE:PA r = −0.455, p < 0.001; DP:PA r = −0.446, p < 0.001). Female gender (p = 0.020), core surgical training grade (p = 0.012), and being childless (p = 0.033) were independently associated with higher levels of EE; whereas HST grade (p = 0.007), age >30 years (p = 0.010), married/partner status (p = 0.001), and parenthood (p = 0.015), were associated with lower levels of burnout with regard to DP. Binary logistic regression revealed lower burnout in all domains to be associated with HST status (hazard ratio 0.116, 95% confidence interval 0.014-0.980, p = 0.048) and male gender (hazard ratio 4.365, (1.246-15.293), p = 0.021). Conclusions: Burnout among surgical trainees was common in at least 1 Maslach Burnout Inventory domain. Urgent counter measures are required to protect the health and wellbeing of trainees at risk, which ought to be associated with commensurate improvement in patient safety.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e1-e8
    JournalJournal of Surgical Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2019
    Event2019 International Conference on Surgical Education and Training : To Treat, To Teach, To Train - Exploring Professionalisation and Excellence in Surgical Training - Faculty of Surgical Trainers, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    Duration: 21 Mar 201922 Mar 2019


    • Burnout
    • Education
    • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
    • Professionalism
    • Stress
    • Surgery


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