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Intern Med J. 2005 May;35(5):272-8.

Burnout in physicians: a case for peer-support.

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Wellington Clinical School, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.



It is well documented that doctors experience a high level of stress in their profession, and that this can lead to physical, psychological, and emotional harm, in particular, burnout. Overseas (especially in the UK and USA), research investigating the levels of stress, burnout, and associated psychiatric morbidity in health professionals, across many specialties, has been carried out with a view to prevention of these adverse outcomes.


To assess the level of burnout in a sample of New Zealand physicians, the associated work and personal characteristics, and the need for development of a support peer supervision or support system.


Questionnaires that measured a number of work and personal characteristics, including the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the General Health Questionnaire, and additional questions regarding mistakes, and need for support, were sent to 83 physicians in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty areas. Analysis involved descriptive statistics, with t-tests for comparison with other studies, Pearson Product-Moment correlations between variables and analysis of variance where appropriate.


Of the 50 respondents, 28% experienced high levels of two or three aspects of burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, low personal accomplishment). Emotional exhaustion correlated with a greater need for support. Most respondents favoured a one-to-one support system.


This study highlights the presence of significant workplace difficulties for physicians and the need to develop a preventative support system for the protection of physicians and the patients in their care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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