Burnout in Physical Therapists
Purpose/Hypothesis: Burnout is defined as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind.” Three specific subsets of burnout are recognized in the literature: Depersonalization, lack of personal achievement, and emotional exhaustion. Burnout has been studied in doctors, psychologists, social workers, and occupational therapists. The prevalence of burnout in physical therapists and its impact on patients has not been well established. The purpose of the study was to discover whether or not physical therapists experience burnout. Number of Subjects: 285 Physical Therapist replied to the survey Materials and Methods: Subjects were recruited from the clinical education sites of Nazareth College. The survey was sent to the selected sites, and supervising physical therapists at the site were encouraged to forward the survey to full-time physical therapists. Surveys that were not complete were excluded. The Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS) and additional follow-up questions were used to measure Burnout and its associated stressors. Statistics were analyzed using SPSS software. Results: 285 physical therapists completed the MBI-HSS and additional questions, 211 surveys were included for data analysis. Both self-reports (77%) and MBI-HSS cut-off scores (82.4%) indicated that physical therapist experience burn out. There was no relationship between scores on the MBI-HSS and self reported burnout. 34% of physical therapists said that burnout negatively affected their patient care. The majority of physical therapists (67.8%) reported work as being the greatest source of burnout and reported paperwork (33%) as being the largest source of stress at work. No correlations were noted between burnout and setting, years of practice, or gender. Conclusions: This study suggests that burnout, whether measured through the MBI-HSS or self-reported, is prevalent among physical therapists. Paperwork was the most significant reported contributor to burnout. Time spent on paperwork is usually not reimbursed by insurance companies, and many facilities do not allow adequate time to complete paperwork outside of the treatment session. This could increase the pressure on physical therapists to complete paperwork either after work or while they are with their patients, leading to increased levels of perceived burnout and potentially decreasing quality of care. Clinical Relevance: The lack of correlation between MBI-HSS scores and self-reported burnout could indicate that burnout is still a poorly understood phenomenon among physical therapists. Increasing awareness of the existence, prevalence, and causes of burnout is important for addressing burnout in physical therapists. Addressing burnout could help to optimize the quality of care for patients and improve the overall health of physical therapists.