Open Access Research article

A survey of resilience, burnout, and tolerance of uncertainty in Australian general practice registrars

Georga PE Cooke1*, Jenny A Doust1 and Michael C Steele2

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

2 Faculty of Business, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-2

Published: 7 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Burnout and intolerance of uncertainty have been linked to low job satisfaction and lower quality patient care. While resilience is related to these concepts, no study has examined these three concepts in a cohort of doctors. The objective of this study was to measure resilience, burnout, compassion satisfaction, personal meaning in patient care and intolerance of uncertainty in Australian general practice (GP) registrars.

Methods

We conducted a paper-based cross-sectional survey of GP registrars in Australia from June to July 2010, recruited from a newsletter item or registrar education events. Survey measures included the Resilience Scale-14, a single-item scale for burnout, Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) scale, Personal Meaning in Patient Care scale, Intolerance of Uncertainty-12 scale, and Physician Response to Uncertainty scale.

Results

128 GP registrars responded (response rate 90%). Fourteen percent of registrars were found to be at risk of burnout using the single-item scale for burnout, but none met the criteria for burnout using the ProQOL scale. Secondary traumatic stress, general intolerance of uncertainty, anxiety due to clinical uncertainty and reluctance to disclose uncertainty to patients were associated with being at higher risk of burnout, but sex, age, practice location, training duration, years since graduation, and reluctance to disclose uncertainty to physicians were not.

Only ten percent of registrars had high resilience scores. Resilience was positively associated with compassion satisfaction and personal meaning in patient care. Resilience was negatively associated with burnout, secondary traumatic stress, inhibitory anxiety, general intolerance to uncertainty, concern about bad outcomes and reluctance to disclose uncertainty to patients.

Conclusions

GP registrars in this survey showed a lower level of burnout than in other recent surveys of the broader junior doctor population in both Australia and overseas. Resilience was also lower than might be expected of a satisfied and professionally successful cohort.

Keywords:
Adaptation; Psychological; Burnout; Professional; Job satisfaction; Uncertainty