Imposter Phenomenon in US Physicians Relative to the US Working Population

Tait D. Shanafelt, Lotte N. Dyrbye, Christine Sinsky, Mickey Trockel, Maryam S. Makowski, Michael Tutty, Hanhan Wang, Lindsey E. Carlasare, Colin P. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To determine the prevalence of imposter phenomenon (IP) experiences among physicians and evaluate their relationship to personal and professional characteristics, professional fulfillment, burnout, and suicidal ideation. Participants and Methods: Between November 20, 2020, and February 16, 2021, we surveyed US physicians and a probability-based sample of the US working population. Imposter phenomenon was measured using a 4-item version of the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale. Burnout and professional fulfillment were measured using standardized instruments. Results: Among the 3237 physician responders invited to complete the subsurvey including the IP scale, 3116 completed the IP questions. Between 4% (133) and 10% (308) of the 3116 physicians endorsed each of the 4 IP items as a “very true” characterization of their experience. Relative to those with a low IP score, the odds ratio for burnout among those with moderate, frequent, and intense IP was 1.28 (95% CI, 1.04 to 1.58), 1.79 (95% CI, 1.38 to 2.32), and 2.13 (95% CI, 1.43 to 3.19), respectively. A similar association between IP and suicidal ideation was observed. On multivariable analysis, physicians endorsed greater intensity of IP than workers in other fields in response to the item, “I am disappointed at times in my present accomplishments and think I should have accomplished more.” Conclusion: Imposter phenomenon experiences are common among US physicians, and physicians have more frequent experiences of disappointment in accomplishments than workers in other fields. Imposter phenomenon experiences are associated with increased burnout and suicidal ideation and lower professional fulfillment. Systematic efforts to address the professional norms and perfectionistic attitudes that contribute to this phenomenon are necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1981-1993
Number of pages13
JournalMayo Clinic proceedings
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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