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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Stress, burnout and doctors' attitudes to work are determined by personality and learning style: A twelve year longitudinal study of UK medical graduates

IC McManus1*, A Keeling1 and E Paice2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom

2 London Department of Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education, 22 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1DZ, United Kingdom

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BMC Medicine 2004, 2:29  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-2-29

Published: 18 August 2004

Abstract

Background

The study investigated the extent to which approaches to work, workplace climate, stress, burnout and satisfaction with medicine as a career in doctors aged about thirty are predicted by measures of learning style and personality measured five to twelve years earlier when the doctors were applicants to medical school or were medical students.

Methods

Prospective study of a large cohort of doctors. The participants were first studied when they applied to any of five UK medical schools in 1990. Postal questionnaires were sent to all doctors with a traceable address on the current or a previous Medical Register. The current questionnaire included measures of Approaches to Work, Workplace Climate, stress (General Health Questionnaire), burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory), and satisfaction with medicine as a career and personality (Big Five). Previous questionnaires had included measures of learning style (Study Process Questionnaire) and personality.

Results

Doctors' approaches to work were predicted by study habits and learning styles, both at application to medical school and in the final year. How doctors perceive their workplace climate and workload is predicted both by approaches to work and by measures of stress, burnout and satisfaction with medicine. These characteristics are partially predicted by trait measures of personality taken five years earlier. Stress, burnout and satisfaction also correlate with trait measures of personality taken five years earlier.

Conclusions

Differences in approach to work and perceived workplace climate seem mainly to reflect stable, long-term individual differences in doctors themselves, reflected in measures of personality and learning style.