Burnout and well-being in physical therapist students



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Burnout, a negative psychological response to chronic work stress, has become an increasingly popular topic of discussion in recent years as health care providers and students are pushed to capacity with increasing expectations and decreasing resources. While there is an abundance of research on burnout in physicians and nurses, the literature on burnout in physical therapists (PTs) is far more limited, with minimal research including PT students. Burnout has many negative consequences for the person, their employer or school, and their patients. Burnout follows a developmental process that might begin during students’ academic studies and continues as they transition into the workforce, making burnout an important subject to investigate in students to mitigate or prevent its effects later in life. Assessing burnout in PT students is an important first step toward taking action to prevent and address burnout and improve their well-being. It is also important to determine what factors may influence the development of burnout or which factors may protect against the development of burnout. The purpose of the three studies was to assess the reliability and validity of the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory for Students (OLBI-S), determine the levels of burnout in PT students, investigate individual and environmental factors that may influence the development of burnout, and assess students’ perceptions of burnout and well-being while they are enrolled in a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. Test-retest reliability of the OLBI-S and convergent validity of the OLBI-S with the MBI General Survey for Students (MBI-GSS) was assessed in DPT students. Results indicated that the OLBI-S has excellent reliability and good validity. Next, a cross-sectional study utilizing the OLBI-S as well as several other outcome measures was conducted to determine if there is a difference in burnout scores among students in different years of a DPT program, to determine cut-off scores that would be used to group students into burnout categories, and to determine which demographic, individual, and environmental factors may influence the development of burnout. There was not a significant difference in burnout scores when comparing students across years in a DPT program and cut-off scores for burnout groups were established for DPT students. Results indicated that perceived stress, level of resilience, satisfaction with the level of support from faculty, and satisfaction with the overall learning environment at DPT school may influence the development of burnout in DPT students. A final study explored DPT students’ perceptions of factors that promote or impede well-being during their DPT program as well as to explore the students’ definition of burnout. This study utilized a qualitative research design using individual interviews and coding of student responses to questions to assess DPT student perceptions on burnout and well-being. Findings indicated that DPT students experienced burnout as a combination of exhaustion, disengagement, and chronic overload. Factors that negatively affected well-being while in DPT school included unmanageable stress, an excessive workload, and time pressures. Factors that positively affected well-being while in DPT school included prioritizing time, support, and self-awareness.



Burnout, Well-being, Physical therapist students