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J Grad Med Educ. 2013 Jun;5(2):257-61. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-12-00136.1.

Burnout, coping, and spirituality among internal medicine resident physicians.



Burnout in physicians is common, and studies show a prevalence of 30% to 78%. Identifying constructive coping strategies and personal characteristics that protect residents against burnout may be helpful for reducing errors and improving physician satisfaction.


We explored the complex relationships between burnout, behaviors, emotional coping, and spirituality among internal medicine and internal medicine-pediatrics residents.


We anonymously surveyed 173 internal medicine and medicine-pediatrics residents to explore burnout, coping, and spiritual attitudes. We used 3 validated survey instruments: the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Carver Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced (COPE) Inventory, and the Hatch Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale (SIBS).


A total of 108 (63%) residents participated, with 31 (28%) reporting burnout. Residents who employed strategies of acceptance, active coping, and positive reframing had lower emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (all, P < .03). Residents who reported denial or disengagement had higher emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scores. Personal accomplishment was positively correlated with the SIBS total score (r  =  +.28, P  =  .003), as well as the internal/fluid domain (r  =  +.32, P  =  .001), existential axes (r  =  +.32, P  =  .001), and humility/personal application domain (r  =  +.23, P  =  .02). The humility/personal application domain also was negatively correlated with emotional exhaustion (r  =  -.20, P  =  .04) and depersonalization (r  =  -.25, P  =  .009). No activity or demographic factor affected any burnout domain.


Burnout is a heterogeneous syndrome that affects many residents. We identified a range of emotional and spiritual coping strategies that may have protective benefit.

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