Mayo Clinic Proceedings
To evaluate the association between degree of professional burnout and physicians' sense of calling.
Participants and Methods
US physicians across all specialties were surveyed between October 24, 2014, and May 29, 2015. Professional burnout was assessed using a validated single-item measure. Sense of calling, defined as committing one's life to personally meaningful work that serves a prosocial purpose, was assessed using 6 validated true-false items. Associations between burnout and identification with calling items were assessed using multivariable logistic regressions.
A total of 2263 physicians completed surveys (63.1% response rate). Among respondents, 28.5% (n=639) reported experiencing some degree of burnout. Compared with physicians who reported no burnout symptoms, those who were completely burned out had lower odds of finding their work rewarding (odds ratio [OR], 0.05; 95% CI, 0.02-0.10; P<.001), seeing their work as one of the most important things in their lives (OR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.21-0.69; P<.001), or thinking their work makes the world a better place (OR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.17-0.85; P=.02). Burnout was also associated with lower odds of enjoying talking about their work to others (OR, 0.23; 95% CI, 0.13-0.41; P<.001), choosing their work life again (OR, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.06-0.20; P<.001), or continuing with their current work even if they were no longer paid if they were financially stable (OR, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.15-0.59; P<.001).
Physicians who experience more burnout are less likely to identify with medicine as a calling. Erosion of the sense that medicine is a calling may have adverse consequences for physicians as well as those for whom they care.