Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Recent research on physician burnout indicates that nearly 50% of physicians experience some level of burnout, often starting in medical school and residency. This rate has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years even as physicians and medical organizations have begun to discuss the need to improve physician well being, focusing on resilience and work-life balance. In our 3-year collaborative, interdisciplinary research in a primary care residency program, we have found that residents identify structural factors as root causes of burnout and express frustration that in focusing on resilience the blame is placed on residents rather than a poorly functioning system. Although the inherent stresses of being a physician will always require some degree of resilience, the experiences of residents in our research suggest that a singular focus on resilience assumes that residents should be capable of functioning well within the existing system. However, the roots of physician burnout lie in the underlying values and culture of the system itself, not in individual actors’ capacity to adapt. In this presentation, we discuss the results of our qualitative research and how that research articulates with LifePoint Health’s work to reduce burnout among its physicians. Through description of the intersections of research and practice across diverse institutions and professional practice, we demonstrate the value of a critical analysis that recognizes well being as simultaneously individual, social, and institutional.