Characterization of Nonphysician Health Care Workers' Burnout and Subsequent Changes in Work Effort

Liselotte N. Dyrbye, Brittny Major-Elechi, Prabin Thapa, J. Taylor Hays, Cathryn H. Fraser, Steven J. Buskirk, Colin P. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Burnout is a pervasive, unrelenting problem among health care workers (HCWs), with detrimental impact to patients. Data on the impact of burnout on workforce staffing are limited and could help build a financial case for action to address system-level contributors to burnout. Objective: To explore the association of burnout and professional satisfaction with changes in work effort over 24 months in a large cohort of nonphysician HCWs. Design, Setting, and Participants: This longitudinal cohort study was conducted in Rochester, Minnesota; Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and community-based hospitals and health care facilities in the Midwest among nonphysician HCWs who responded to 2 surveys from 2015 to 2017. Analysis was completed November 25, 2020. Exposures: Burnout, as measured by 2 items from the Maslach Burnout Inventory, and professional satisfaction. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcome was work effort, as measured in full-time equivalent (FTE) units, recorded in payroll records. Results: Data from 26280 responders (7293 individuals aged 45-54 years [27.8%]; 20263 [77.1%] women) were analyzed. A total of 8115 individuals (30.9%) had worked for the organization more than 15 years, and 6595 individuals (25.1%) were nurses. After controlling for sex, age, duration of employment, job category, baseline FTE, and baseline burnout, overall burnout (odds ratio [OR], 1.53; 95% CI, 1.38-1.70; P <.001), high emotional exhaustion at baseline (OR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.39-1.71; P <.001), and high depersonalization at baseline (OR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.21-1.62; P <.001) were associated with an HCW reducing their FTE over the following 24 months. Conversely, satisfaction with the organization at baseline was associated with lower likelihood of reduced FTE (OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.65-0.83; P <.001). Findings were similar when emotional exhaustion (OR per 1-point increase, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.10-1.16; P <.001), depersonalization (OR per 1-point increase, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.06-1.14; P <.001) and satisfaction with the organization (OR per 1-point increase, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.79-0.88; P <.001) were modeled as continuous measures. Nurses represented the largest group (1026 of 1997 nurses [51.4%]) reducing their FTE over the 24 months. Conclusions and Relevance: This cohort study found that burnout and professional satisfaction of HCWs were associated with subsequent changes in work effort over the following 24 months. These findings highlight the importance of addressing factors contributing to high stress among all HCWs as a workforce retention and cost reduction strategy..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21435
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 20 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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