The Effect of Burnout on Medical Errors and Professionalism in First-Year Internal Medicine Residents

Jason Kwah, Jennifer Weintraub, Robert Fallar, Jonathan Ripp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


METHODS : A single institution observational cohort study was conducted between June 2011 and July 2012. Burnout was measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory to generate subscores for the following 3 domains: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and sense of personal accomplishment. By convention, burnout was defined as a high emotional exhaustion or depersonalization subscore. Medication prescription error rate was the chosen measure of medical errors. Professionalism was measured cumulatively through examining discharge summaries completed within 48 hours, outpatient charts completed within 72 hours, and the average time to review outpatient laboratory tests.

BACKGROUND : Burnout is a common issue in internal medicine residents, and its impact on medical errors and professionalism is an important subject of investigation.

OBJECTIVE : To evaluate differences in medical errors and professionalism in internal medicine residents with and without burnout.

RESULTS : Of a total of 54 eligible first-year residents, 53 (98%) and 32 (59%) completed the initial and follow-up surveys, respectively. Residents with year-end burnout had a lower rate of medication prescription errors (0.553 versus 0.780, P = .007). Discharge summaries completed within 48 hours of discharge (83.8% versus 84.0%, P = .93), outpatient charts completed within 72 hours of encounter (93.7% versus 94.3%, P = .31), and time (minutes) to review outpatient laboratory test results (72.3 versus 26.9, P = .28) were similar between residents with and without year-end burnout.

CONCLUSIONS : This study found a small decrease in medical errors in residents with year-end burnout compared to burnout-free residents and no difference in selected measures of professionalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-600
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of graduate medical education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


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