A Pilot study on Burnout Syndrome: Its existence, causes and coping strategies practiced by medical professionals in Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Sri Lanka

M. Kathriarachchi, G. Rowntree


Burnout syndrome among doctors causes increased turnover, decreased job satisfaction, depression, anxiety, frequent medical errors and patient death. Main aim of this paper is to identify existence of the burnout syndrome, underlying causes and analyze the coping strategies practiced by medical professionals of the Teaching Hospital, Colombo South (CSTH). The review of definitions elaborated the most accepted definition of the syndrome as one consisting of three dimensions namely emotional exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP) and reduced personal accomplishment (PA). Individuals scoring positive on EE and/ or DP dimension regardless of scoring positive on all three dimensions of the syndrome are considered as undergoing burnout syndrome related to work. Method used for investigating burnout syndrome was a deductive approach with a quantitative survey strategy. The survey hosted three questionnaires. First questionnaire was self – administered and validated by the authors and attempted to identify the causative factors of the syndrome. Instrument 2 - MBI – HSS validated by Samaranayake and Seneviratne (2010) was used to assess the prevalence of the syndrome among medical professionals practicing at CSTH. Coping strategies questionnaire developed and validated by Ellawala (2010) was used to measure the strategies currently practiced among medical professionals. Data collection through surveys was conducted among a sample of randomly selected 100 medical professionals.

Findings illustrate that workload depicted in terms of private practice; gender and high personal contact nature of the work are not associated causes of the burnout syndrome. Long work hours, heavy work load, marital status, having less time to spend with family / friends, unpleasant work environment, unpleasant relationships with colleagues, having low autonomy at work and risk of major failure or patient death were recognized as associated causes of the burnout syndrome. Proportion of the syndrome was 53%. Of the study sample, 30% individuals scored positive on EE dimension, 24% scored positive on DP dimension and 24% scored positive on PA dimension. When considering the most popular coping strategies practiced in stressful situations, it was reported that listening to music, obtaining emotional support from family / friends and seeking comfort in the religion respectively. Another finding that contrasts from the major studies illustrated that 92% of the medical professionals in the sample never practiced harmful coping strategy of substance abuse for mitigating stress.

Key Words: Burnout syndrome, Emotional exhaustion, Depersonalization, Reduced personal accomplishment, Medical professionals, Occupational stress, Coping strategies

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