Healthcare healthcare providers and the public because acknowledging the

Healthcare providers have chosen a career
path that is both taxing and rewarding. The high stress of an education and
career in healthcare takes a toll on the mental health of providers, leading to
what is commonly referred to as “burnout.” Many factors affect which healthcare
providers will fall victim to job stress and eventual burnout, including the
provider’s experience during their education, their demographic information,
and their personality traits. Understanding who will most likely be affected by
burnout is important for identification and treatment before there is a
negative effect on the quality of healthcare provided to the public.

According to the U.S. Health and Human
Services Department, burnout is described as “emotional exhaustion that results
in depersonalization and decreased personal accomplishment at work”.1
Burnout is problematic for healthcare providers and the public because
acknowledging the individual needs of each patient is vital to the encounter
and relationship between a provider and patient. Without respect for each
patient as a person seeking their treatment and advice, healthcare providers
may be unknowingly putting the patient at risk. When providers are emotionally
drained, they may be lacking the compassion and drive necessary to elicit
information during a patient visit, which may then lead to poor quality
treatment that is not suited to the patient’s underlying issues. Making
providers aware of the issues associated with burnout and their risk factors
will provide them with the chance to take preventative measures to avoid giving
substandard care to their patients.

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The dangers of healthcare provider burnout
to the public is concerning, but it is important to understand what may be
causing burnout to decrease its occurrence. One study examined the prevalence
of burnout in third year medical students based on whether they were mistreated
by faculty or residents. The study found that students who claimed that they
were repeatedly mistreated by healthcare faculty were 29.5% more likely to
score high on the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which is a scale that uses emotional
effects of stress in conjunction with depersonalization to determine burnout;
and students who claimed that they were repeatedly mistreated by residents were
17% more likely to score high on the Maslach Burnout Inventory.2
Medical students beginning rotations are already likely to be anxious about their
performance and knowledge when they begin seeing patients in a clinical
setting, and mistreatment by the faculty and residents who are there to help
them learn may lend to the amount of stress that leads them to feel burnt out.
The residents and faculty that mistreat students may be suffering from burnout
themselves, causing them to treat students poorly without the intention of
causing harm to public or the student. By encouraging constructive criticism
and enforcing better treatment of students by their teachers, the frequency of
burnout symptoms of medical students may be decreased during their clinical
rotations.

The sex and age of physicians are factors
that can be used to determine which groups of people are most susceptible to
symptoms that contribute to burnout. According to a study of 15,150 physicians
and 45,450 controls, male physicians have a higher odds ratio of having treated
anxiety than women physicians, and physicians older than 35 years old had a
lower odds ratio than younger physicians of having treated depression.3
This study deals with treated mental health conditions, and the results could
be drastically different if untreated conditions could be easily accounted for.
There is stigma associated with mental illness, and the differences in the odds
ratios for treated depression between older and younger physicians may be
associated with a change in the way that society views mental illness and
judges those affected by it. If physicians feel that they can seek help without
any adverse effects to their position or relationships with peers, they will
have the opportunity to manage stress or mental health symptoms before they
lead to burnout.

Personality traits may predispose aspiring
or practicing physicians to stress, anxiety, or depression associated with
burnout. A study of Norwegian junior physicians found that those with the
traits of neuroticism and “reality weakness,” defined as “experiencing oneself
being totally different at different points in time and feeling like being in a
fog,”4 were more likely to have stress reaction symptoms during
their education, which agrees with past studies on medical students and practicing
physicians.5 Emotional reactions associated with neuroticism and
personality disorders can be logically correlated with a greater likelihood of
stress reactions in high-stress environments, such as medical school. With a
constant barrage of stressful situations, medical school provides the
conditions that can cause burnout in students with an inability to manage their
emotions and subsequent reactions to stress. 
By acknowledging the stressful conditions associated with careers in
healthcare at the beginning of healthcare educational programs, resources may
be provided to help students successfully manage their emotions, avoid high
levels of stress, and prevent eventual burnout.

Based on the factors that may contribute
to burnout, there are steps that can be taken to decrease the likelihood of
burnout or minimize its effects on the provider and the public. Preventing real
or perceived mistreatment of medical students by their superiors is one step
that can be taken to decrease added stress while learning in, and acclimating
to, a healthcare setting. An environment that fosters learning with
constructive criticism and respect could be beneficial to medical students and
the residents or faculty working with them. By identifying which students or
healthcare providers may be at risk for burnout and providing them with a comfortable
environment to discuss their emotions and mental health history, prompt and
effective treatment for burnout symptoms can be provided. Also, by determining
the personality traits of students and providers, better resources can be
provided to help at-risk individuals find ways to address their emotions or
seek help when necessary. There may not be an easy solution to the high-stress
situations of the healthcare profession, but there are various methods that can
be implemented to decrease the occurrence of burnout and the impact it has on
patient care