The learning environment and medical student burnout: A multicentre study

Liselotte N. Dyrbye, Matthew R. Thomas, William Harper, F. Stanford Massie, David V. Power, Anne Eacker, Daniel W. Szydlo, Paul J. Novotny, Jeff A. Sloan, Tait D. Shanafelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


Objectives: Little is known about specific personal and professional factors influencing student distress. The authors conducted a comprehensive assessment of how learning environment, clinical rotation factors, workload, demographics and personal life events relate to student burnout. Methods: All medical students (n = 3080) at five medical schools were surveyed in the spring of 2006 using a validated instrument to assess burnout. Students were also asked about the aforementioned factors. Results: A total of 1701 medical students (response rate 55%) completed the survey. Learning climate factors were associated with student burnout on univariate analysis (odds ratio [OR] 1.36-2.07; all P ≤ 0.02). Being on a hospital ward rotation or a rotation requiring overnight call was also associated with burnout (ORs 1.69 and 1.48, respectively; both P ≤ 0.02). Other workload characteristics (e.g. number of admissions) had no relation to student burnout. Students who experienced a positive personal life event had a lower frequency of burnout (OR 0.70; P ≤ 0.02), whereas those who experienced negative personal life events did not have a higher frequency of burnout than students who did not experience a negative personal life event. On multivariate analysis personal characteristics, learning environment and personal life events were all independently related to student burnout. Conclusions: Although a complex array of personal and professional factors influence student well-being, student satisfaction with specific characteristics of the learning environment appears to be a critical factor. Studies determining how to create a learning environment that cultivates student well-being are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-282
Number of pages9
JournalMedical education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • *Burnout, professional
  • *Education, medical, undergraduate
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life change events
  • Male
  • Multicentre study [publication type]
  • Personal satisfaction
  • Students, medical/*psychology
  • Workload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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