Objectives Previous research revealed burnout in one third of the Belgian critical care physicians. Burnout leads to absenteeism, affects quality and safety of care, while work-engagement positively affects personal performance and involvement in the organisation. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence, determinants and consequences of burnout and work-engagement in a representative sample of Belgian physicians across all medical specialties.
Methods A multi-centre survey was conducted using a 2-phased convenience sample: 1) all general and psychiatric hospitals were invited and 2) an electronic questionnaire was send to all doctors from the participating institutions. The 29-item “Utrechtse Burnout Scale” measured 3 dimensions, “emotional exhaustion (EE)”, “depersonalisation (DP)” and “personal accomplishment (PA)”, scored on a likert-scale (0(never)- 6(always/daily)). Doctors with high EE (mean score>2.50) and high DP (mean score>1.80(men)/>1.60(women)) or low PA (mean score<3.71) were considered at risk. Burnout was defined as high EE and high DP and low PA. The 9-item “Utrechtse Work-Engagement Scale” using a similar likert-scale determined work-engagement (mean score>5). Socio-demographics, theory-based determinants and consequences were measured using validated scales.
Results Thirty-seven hospitals (20%) joined the study and 1198 doctors (47% female, mean age: 43.66) completed the questionnaire. Almost 89% had at least a master-after-master degree and 62% were medical specialists. The most represented specialties were anesthesia-resuscitation (12%), internal medicine (7.3%) and paediatrics (6.8%). Forty percent, 27.9% and 15.3% suffered from EE, DP and low PA respectively. Burnout was detected in 5.4%, 17.8% were at risk and 63% demonstrated high work-engagement. Important burnout determinants were “workload”, “role conflicts” and “emotional strain”. “Autonomy”, “skill utilisation” and “physician-nurse relation” determined work-engagement.
Conclusions A slightly higher number of Belgian doctors suffered from burnout compared to previous studies, yet also showed work-engagement. Further analysis on determinants will be conducted as a base for preventive measures and actions to improve work-engagement.