This study was performed in order to gather insight into the well-being of Dutch medical residents.
In 2005, all Dutch residents registered through the Medical Registration Committee (n = 5245) were sent a self-report questionnaire to assess socio-demographic and work-related characteristics, burnout and engagement.
Of the 5140 eligible residents, 2115 completed the questionnaire (41%). Of those, 21% fulfilled the criteria for moderate to severe burnout and 27% were highly engaged with their work. Women reported more emotional exhaustion and less depersonalisation than men; age was weakly but significantly related to depersonalisation, and married residents and parents reported less depersonalisation than their single or childless counterparts. More men than women were found to be highly engaged and men specifically reported more vigour. Number of years in training was weakly but significantly related to absorption. With regard to occupational risk factors, significant between-group differences were found for the effects of clinical setting on emotional exhaustion, engagement, vigour and absorption. Residents in training in a mental health clinic were most emotionally exhausted and those in a rehabilitation centre were least engaged. General surgery represented the specialty with the lowest number of residents suffering from burnout, followed by obstetrics and gynaecology and any supportive specialty. General surgery residents were also found to be more highly engaged, vigorous, dedicated and absorbed than others.
As more than a fifth of the medical residents who responded could be diagnosed as suffering from burnout, we conclude that this problem needs addressing in the Dutch health care system, especially given that a relationship was proven between burnout and suboptimal patient care. We must look for solutions and interventions which will improve the work situation of medical residents. Striving for healthy workers in health care has to become daily practice.