No. That’s a depressing finding in a recent study discussed below. Medical students typically come into their first year energized and upbeat. Why does enthusiasm turn to burnout? And why doesn’t it go away as they move on to clinical care and take on the challenge of medicine vs. the academic challenges in the pre-clinical years?
If you are just starting medical school, it’s key to determine a baseline so you can see how your well-being is changing over time. Consider checking in with yourself in one of our self-checks.
After entering medical school, what happens over the next 3 years? That’s what a group of researchers from SUNY Upstate Medical University investigated in a recent study (Elkins, 2017).
Elkins Cinthia, Plante Kyle P, Germain Lauren J, Morley Christopher P. Burnout and Depression in MS1 and MS3 Years: A Comparison of Cohorts at One Medical School. Fam Med. June 2017;49(6):456-459.
What Did They Find?
Students at SUNY Upstate completed a mandatory annual survey at the end of their 1st and 3rd academic year that included the modified Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) depression screening instrument.
- Almost 3 out of 10 students had possible depression in both years
- MS3 emotional exhaustion and depersonalization scores on the Maslach Burnout Inventory were 2 points higher and personal accomplishment scores were 2 points lower in comparison to MS1s
- MS3s had higher regrets about entering medicine in comparison to their younger counterparts
For many medical students, as well as the family, friends, and significant others that support them, this is not a surprise. But how can this be? What is going wrong?
Apparently, rather than being inspired by the potential of becoming a physician and a healer, students are weighed down by the pressures of medical school as their training progresses. Unfortunately, this problem does not magically go away once students become practicing physicians. We need to understand and address burnout during training and beyond in order to change this.
As discussed in Burnout -> Med Student Risky Alcohol Use & SI consider the risk that alcohol is both a compensation strategy and risk for depression and suicidality. Try Mindfulness to Counter Burnout; it may be a better coping strategy.
We’re working to better understand the cause, and more importantly find a solution, at both personal and institutional levels. Burnout has multiple causes, some of which are under the student’s control, but some solutions require changes on the part of institutions. We need to figure out which is which.