The Road to Emergency Medicine Attending Physician Burnout and Resilience: Divergence Through Compassion and Learning Habitus

Jane Kim, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Physicians are responsible for the well-being and health of society. However, studies show that more than half of physicians in the United States experience burnout. In order to address this critical issue of physician burnout, previous studies have examined the physician population that is experiencing burnout. These studies have identified the elements that cause burnout in order to craft a targeted treatment plan to eliminate these risk factors and causes of burnout. Still, the question remains: if physicians as a population are under the same conditions of workplace stress and more than half of physicians experience burnout, what is occurring with the other half of physicians who are not affected by burnout? To answer this question, this ethnographic case study explored the practices of eight mid-career emergency medicine attending physicians who work clinically in a high-volume, urban, academic emergency department. Primary data collection for this qualitative study was collected through 80 hours of observation of eight emergency medicine attending physicians. To provide support for the constructed theory, additional data was collected from informal interviews of 24 informants and eight formal semi-structured interviews. Qualitative data was analyzed using a thematic analysis process to inductively build theory about workplace practices associated with emergency medicine attending physician burnout and resilience. Three key findings emerged from this study: 1) emergency medicine attending physicians either possess a compassion habitus or a learning habitus, 2) having a compassion habitus tends to lead to attending physician burnout, and 3) having a learning habitus tends to lead to attending physician resilience. This study proposes a theory that embraces a sociocultural framework and establishes the concept of an attending physician’s compassion or learning habitus. The habitus concept accounts for the complex interrelatedness of the physician and the context within the activity of patient care that ultimately leads to burnout or resilience. The model of compassion habitus leading to physician burnout and learning habitus leading to physician resilience advances the idea that compassion can have negative consequences that need to be appreciated and evaluated.

Subject Area

Occupational psychology|Organizational behavior|Medical personnel

Recommended Citation

Kim, Jane, "The Road to Emergency Medicine Attending Physician Burnout and Resilience: Divergence Through Compassion and Learning Habitus" (2019). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI22589557.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI22589557

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