Burned Out at the Bedside: Patient Perceptions of Physician Burnout in an Internal Medicine Resident Continuity Clinic

Justin P. Lafreniere, Rebeca Rios, Hillary Packer, Sharon Ghazarian, Scott M. Wright, Rachel B. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Burnout is high among resident physicians and may be associated with suboptimal patient care and reduced empathy. Objective: To investigate the relationship between patient perceptions of empathy and enablement and physician burnout in internal medicine residents. Design: Cross-sectional, survey-based observational study between December 2012 and March 2013 in a resident continuity clinic located within a large urban academic primary care practice in Baltimore, Maryland. Participants: Study participants were 44 PGY1-3 residents and a convenience sample of their English-speaking adult primary care patients (N = 244). Main Measures: Patients rated their resident physicians using the Consultation and Relational Empathy Measure (CARE) and the Patient Enablement Instrument (PEI). Residents completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). We tested for associations between resident burnout and patients’ perceptions of resident empathy (CARE) and enablement (PEI) using multilevel regression analysis. Key Results: Multilevel regression analyses indicated significant positive associations between physician depersonalization scores on the MBI and patient ratings of empathy (B = 0.28, SE = 0.17, p < 0.001) and enablement (B = 0.11, SE = 0.11, p = 0.02). Emotional exhaustion scores on the MBI were not significantly related to either patient outcome. Conclusions: Patients perceived residents who reported higher levels of depersonalization as more empathic and enabling during their patient care encounters. The relationship between physician distress and patient perceptions of care has important implications for medical education and requires further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-208
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • burnout
  • empathy
  • enablement
  • graduate medical education
  • patient outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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