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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Emotional exhaustion and burnout among medical professors; a nationwide survey

Joeri K Tijdink12*, Anton CM Vergouwen3 and Yvo M Smulders1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, VU University Medical Centre, PO Box 7057, 1007, MB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Psychiatry, Tergooi Hospital, Blaricum, the Netherlands

3 Department of Psychiatry, St. Lucas Andreas Hospital, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:183  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-183

Published: 4 September 2014

Abstract

Background

Although job-related burnout and its core feature emotional exhaustion are common among medical professionals and compromise job satisfaction and professional performance, they have never been systematically studied in medical professors, who have central positions in academic medicine.

Methods

We performed an online nationwide survey inviting all 1206 medical professors in The Netherlands to participate. They were asked to fill out the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a ‘professional engagement’ inventory, and to provide demographic and job-specific data.

Results

A total of 437 Professors completed the questionnaire. Nearly one quarter (23.8%) scored above the cut-off used for the definition of emotional exhaustion. Factors related to being in an early career stage (i.e. lower age, fewer years since appointment, having homeliving children, having a relatively low Hirsch index) were significantly associated with higher emotional exhaustion scores. There was a significant inverse correlation between emotional exhaustion and the level of professional engagement.

Conclusions

Early career medical professors have higher scores on emotional exhaustion and may be prone for developing burnout. Based upon this finding, preventive strategies to prevent burnout could be targeted to young professors.