Patient Care

Physician Burnout Reduced with Intervention Groups


Clinical question: Does an intervention involving a facilitated physician small group result in improvement in well-being and reduction in burnout?

Background: Burnout affects nearly half of medical students, residents, and practicing physicians in the U.S.; however, very few interventions have been tested to address this problem.

Study design: Randomized controlled trial (RCT).

Setting: Department of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

Synopsis: Practicing physicians were randomly assigned to facilitated, small-group intervention curriculum for one hour every two weeks (N=37) or control with unstructured, protected time for one hour every two weeks (N=37). A non-trial cohort of 350 practicing physicians was surveyed annually. This study showed a significant increase in empowerment and engagement at three months that was sustained for 12 months, and a significant decrease in high depersonalization scores was seen at both three and 12 months in the intervention group. There were no significant differences in stress, depression, quality of life, or job satisfaction.

Compared to the non-trial cohort, depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and overall burnout decreased substantially in the intervention arm and slightly in the control arm.

Sample size was small and results may not be generalizable. Topics covered included reflection, self-awareness, and mindfulness, with a combination of community building and skill acquisition to promote connectedness and meaning in work. It is not clear which elements of the curriculum were most effective.

Bottom line: A facilitated, small-group intervention with institution-provided protected time can improve physician empowerment and engagement and reduce depersonalization, an important component of burnout.

Citation: West CP, Dyrbye LN, Rabatin JT, et al. Intervention to promote physician well-being, job satisfaction, and professionalism: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):527-533.

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