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Focus on Meaningful Work Protects Doctors From Burnout

Last Updated: May 28, 2009.

Academic faculty physicians who focus on what they find most meaningful are less likely to experience burnout, according to a study published in the May 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- Academic faculty physicians who focus on what they find most meaningful are less likely to experience burnout, according to a study published in the May 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Tait D. Shanafelt, M.D., and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., surveyed 556 academic faculty physicians, of whom 465 (84 percent) responded, giving information on their work characteristics, career satisfaction and how much time they spent on work that was most meaningful to them.

Patient care was reported by 68 percent of the respondents as the most meaningful aspect of their work, while research was reported by 19 percent, education by 9 percent, and administration by 3 percent, the researchers note. The criteria for burnout, as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory, were met by 34 percent of respondents, and there was a strong correlation between risk of burnout and time spent on the most meaningful activity, the scientists discovered.

"Notably, faculty burnout was strongly associated with an intent to leave academic medicine," the authors write. "These findings suggest that efforts to optimize career fit among the physician faculty members at academic medical centers may be important elements of programs to promote physician satisfaction and to reduce attrition from academic medicine."

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