A systematic review of burnout and its relation to work-life balance and scheduling among United States physicians

Evan Reinhart DO, Kelsey Reely MD, Kristen Dowdy DO, Nikhil Seth MD, Patrick McGrade MD, Clinton Jones DO, M. Jensen Horan BS, Noelle Provenzano BS, Patrick Ramirez MD, Kendall Hammonds MS, Shamyal Khan DO


Physician burnout has been recognized as a multifactorial issue leading to detrimental outcomes for both the individual physician and patients being treated. Burnout is defined as “a pathological syndrome in which emotional depletion and maladaptive detachment develop in response to prolonged occupational stress.” It has been proven that poor work-life balance, a state in which personal life and professional life are in a state of imbalance, is directly connected to burnout. Upward of 61% of all United States physicians are dissatisfied with their work-life balance (WLB). Burnout rates among physicians are positively correlated with frequency of work-home conflicts leading to greater dissatisfaction of their WLB. With the prevalence of burnout among US physicians ranging between 34–76%, addressing modifiable causes such as optimizing WLB should be a priority for administrators and residency directors. In this systematic review, we explore the importance of creating a schedule that prioritizes protecting a physician’s WLB as a means to decrease burnout and the associated sequelae, including medical errors, alcohol and drug abuse, and depression. After identifying 202 studies through a PubMed keyword search and screening for specific criteria, data from 21 articles published between 2011–2018 were included and analyzed. We found that schedules that emphasize the following parameters were protective of physician WLB and burnout: <70-hour work week goals, a maximum of one on-call night per five consecutive days, providing physicians with schedule information a minimum of one month in advance, limiting the number of consecutive work days to five, and providing allotted vacation time. As the importance of mental health and wellness within the health care setting are being regarded as a cause of concern, it is apparent that positive changes need to be made.

Keywords: Physician, work-life balance, burnout, schedule

Article citation: Reinhart E, Reely K, Dowdy K, Seth N, McGrade P, Jones C, Horan MJ, Provenzano N, Ramirez P, Hammonds K, Khan S. A systematic review of burnout and its relation to work-life balance and scheduling among United States physicians. The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles 2020;8(34):40–46
From: Texas A&M HSC at Baylor Scott & White in Temple, Texas
Submitted: 2/23/2020
Accepted: 4/17/2020
Reviewer: Drew Payne DO
Conflicts of interest: none
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