One or two questions may be all that’s needed to determine whether a pediatric resident
is experiencing burnout, a study found.
While the 22-item Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) has been the go-to tool for identifying
burnout, researchers wondered if there was a quicker method that would be just as
reliable. Previous research has shown success with two MBI items or a question from
the Physician Work Life Study (PWLS), but those studies included few pediatric residents.
Those questions and the full MBI were part of the 2016 and 2017 Pediatric Resident
Burnout-Resilience Study Consortium surveys, which included about 2,000 residents
each year and were used by authors in this study to look more closely at residents.
The full MBI showed burnout rates of 56% in 2016 and 54% in 2017.
Screening with just two MBI items — “I feel burned out from my work” and “I have become
more callous to other people since I took this job” — estimated 53% each year. Compared
to the MBI, sensitivities were 84% and 85% each year, while specificities were 87%
The PWLS item asked residents to rate their level of burnout on a five-point scale.
Results estimated burnout of 46% and 49% each year, just slightly below the full MBI.
Compared to the MBI, sensitivity each year was 69% and 72%, and specificities were
82% and 79%.
Authors noted limitations of only studying residents and not looking at results of
burnout such as suicidality or substance abuse. However, they said pediatric residency
programs may find these brief tools helpful.
“However, no screening test or even the industry standard, MBI, can perfectly measure
risk in individual residents,” they wrote, “and if program directors are concerned
about the potential for depression, substance abuse, or suicidality, additional assessments
should be considered.”