Send to

Choose Destination
South Med J. 2010 Jul;103(7):607-15. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e3181e20cad.

Primary language and cultural background as factors in resident burnout in medical specialties: a study in a bilingual US city.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.



The aim of this study was to identify the degree of burnout among resident physicians enrolled in seven postgraduate training programs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, El Paso, Texas, as it related to residents' age, gender, marital status, number of hours worked per week, primary language, race/ethnicity, and cultural background.


: The Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Service Survey (MBI) was administered to measure the level of burnout according to the prevalence of emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP), and reduced personal accomplishment (PA).


: Eighty-one percent of the residents at TTUHSC participated in the study. Residents raised in the United States or Canada comprised 28% and 35% of the study, and all reported English as their primary language. The EE scale was significant for obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) residents (prevalence odds ratio [POR] = 13.55, P = 0.02) and psychiatry (PSY) residents (POR = 6.50, P = 0.03). Emergency medicine (EM) residents (POR = 23.35, P = 0.002), OB/GYN (POR = 10.89, P = 0.02), and general surgery (GS) (POR = 6.24, P = 0.03) residents had high DP. Internal medicine (IM) residents (primarily Spanish-speaking) reported significantly low EE (POR = 0.22, P = 0.03) and PA (POR = 0.09, P = 0.001) scores. Residents from the United States or Canada who reported English as their primary language and noted their race as white, had high EE (POR = 3.06, P = 0.03; POR = 5.61, P = 0.0001; POR = 2.91, P = 0.004), DP (POR = 3.19, P = 0.02; POR = 8.34, P < or = 0.0001; POR = 4.70, P < or = 0.0001) and PA (POR = 2.61, P = 0.02; POR = 2.35, P = 0.05, POR 0.29, P = 0.3) scores.


Using valid measures, this pilot study identified a statistically significant relationship between burnout and residents' race/ethnicity, primary language, and cultural background. Larger studies with similar focus would be necessary to generalize these findings. At-risk residents in bilingual locations should be provided with cultural awareness workshops, language assistance programs, as well as senior resident and faculty mentors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Southern Medical Association
Loading ...
Support Center