alexa The Role Of Emotional Desensitization In Physician Burnout
ISSN: 2378-5756

Journal of Psychiatry
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20th Euro Congress on Psychiatrists and Psychologists
August 07-08, 2017 | Rome, Italy

Atara Messinger and Ayelet Kuper
University of Toronto, Canada
Posters & Accepted Abstracts: J Psychiatry
DOI: 10.4172/2378-5756-C1-024
Statement of the Problem: “Physician burnout” is a pressing mental health concern. Although not a formal diagnosis in the DSM, physician burnout is associated with higher rates of depression, substance use disorder and suicide. A 2011 American study found that physicians are significantly more likely than other working adults to experience professional burnout. This study found that of 7288 physicians across America, nearly 50% reported to be suffering from at least one symptom of professional burnout. A leading cause of burnout is often deemed to be emotional exhaustion (feeling too much); however, the influence of emotional desensitization (not feeling enough) on physician burnout has not been adequately investigated. Methodology & Theoretical Orientation: We conducted individual semi-structured interviews with general internists in one Canadian city. We asked physicians to share both theoretical opinions and personal narratives regarding emotional attachment or detachment in patient care and its possible influence on burnout. We analyzed transcripts iteratively, coding them thematically within an exploratory constructivist framework until we reached theoretical saturation. Findings: We found discrepancies between physicians’ intellectual opinions and personal narratives. Many physicians articulated the belief that emotional attachments with patients lead to burnout and compromise patient care. However, physicians’ narratives suggested that the experience of forming emotional connections with patients enhanced their sense of meaning and satisfaction in medicine, and even improved the quality of their medical care. Conclusion & Significance: Physician burnout is a major problem today and it is incumbent upon us to search for a root cause. Our study challenges conventional assumptions about the presumed importance of ‘affective neutrality’ in medicine. It suggests that forming emotional attachments with patients might protect against physician burnout and enhance the quality of patient care. These findings have important implications for medical education and practice alike.

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