By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

September 18, 2018 -- Across a range of specialties, radiology residents tend to be less prone to burnout, with just over a third reporting symptoms of the condition, according to a study published in the September 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. But when it comes to regretting their career choice, they're higher on the list.

Studies have suggested that burnout is common among U.S. physicians and that it varies by specialty, wrote a team led by Dr. Liselotte Dyrbye of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. There has been little research about the phenomenon among residents, however.

"Studies of U.S. physicians have found substantial differences in the prevalence of symptoms of burnout and career satisfaction by clinical specialty," the researchers wrote (JAMA, September 18, 2018, Vol. 320:11, pp. 1114-1130).

"To our knowledge, no similar national study has been conducted for resident physicians," they noted.

To address the question of burnout rates among residents, Dyrbye and colleagues assessed 3,588 U.S. medical residents across 20 specialties who completed a questionnaire at year 2 of their residency. The survey included questions about medical specialty and levels of anxiety and empathy during medical school; the researchers used measures adapted from the Maslach Burnout Inventory to assess symptoms of burnout. They also evaluated any possible regrets the residents had about their career choice.

Of the study participants, 45.2% reported burnout symptoms and 14.1% reported career choice regret. Factors associated with a higher risk of burnout included being female and having higher reported levels of anxiety during medical school. Meanwhile, higher levels of empathy during medical school were associated with a lower risk of burnout during residency, the group found.

As for radiology residents in particular, more than a third reported symptoms of burnout (35.4%), at the low end of the scale among medical residents. Some 16.7% of radiology residents reported overall career choice regret, but only 6.1% reported regret in their specialty selection.

Burnout prevalence by specialty, year 2 of residency
Specialty Burnout prevalence
Urology 63.8%
Neurology 61.6%
Ophthalmology 55.8%
Emergency medicine 53.8%
Surgery (general) 53.8%
Neurological surgery 52.%
Physical medicine and rehabilitation 50%
Orthopedic surgery 49.7%
Ob/gyn 48.9%
Other surgery 48.2%
Otolaryngology 44.8%
Plastic surgery 44.4%
Psychiatry 43.9%
Pediatrics 43.2%
Internal medicine 42.6%
Anesthesiology 42.5%
Family medicine 37.2%
Radiology 35.4%
Pathology 34.7%
Dermatology 29.6%
Career choice regret by specialty, year 2 of residency
Specialty Career choice regret prevalence
Pathology 32.7%
Anesthesiology 20.6%
Surgery (general) 19.1%
Neurology 17.4%
Psychiatry 16.9%
Physical medicine and rehabilitation 16.7%
Radiology 16.7%
Neurological surgery 16%
Ophthalmology 15.8%
Urology 15.5%
Dermatology 15.5%
Other surgery 14.3%
Pediatrics 13.6%
Orthopedic surgery 12.4%
Internal medicine 12.2%
Ob/gyn 12%
Emergency medicine 11.4%
Otolaryngology 9%
Family medicine 8.9%
Plastic surgery 7.4%

"Among U.S. resident physicians, symptoms of burnout and career choice regret were prevalent, but varied substantially by clinical specialty," Dyrbye and colleagues concluded. "Further research is needed to better understand these differences and to address these issues."


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