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AHRQ Offers New Primer on Health Care Provider Burnout

A new primer from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) examines the causes and prevalence of health care provider burnout and how some organizations have attempted to prevent the problem.

The primer includes links to relevant studies and other research, as well as a sidebar of reference materials. AHRQ has funded burnout research for 15 years and is a co-leader of the National Steering Committee for Patient Safety.

Researchers define burnout as a long-term stress reaction shown by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased personal accomplishment at work. Burnout has been associated with patient safety incidents, medical errors, reduced patient satisfaction, and poorer safety and quality ratings.

A systematic review of studies on physician burnout found estimates of prevalence varied widely, with an average of 19 to 24 percent. One recent meta-analysis found high emotional exhaustion has been recorded in 40 percent of mental health providers. Multiple studies also report a “concerning” prevalence of burnout among nurses and nursing home workers, AHRQ notes.

The primer describes how The Mayo Clinic, Pennsylvania State University, and other organizations research ways to prevent burnout, with a common theme of implementing change at the system level.


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