A study, in February 8, 2017 Mayo Clinic Proceedings, looked at whether the core motivation of physicians to help people was related to burnout. The study tried to examine a physician’s passion to help others by examining their responses on six true-false questions:
- “I find my work rewarding”
- “My work is one of the most important things in my life”
- “My work makes the world a better place”
- “I enjoy talking about my work to others”
- “I would choose my current work life again if I had the opportunity”
- “If I were financially secure, I would continue with my current line of work even if I were no longer paid”
Experiencing at least one symptom of burnout was associated with less identification with each of the six calling items—sometimes by more than 60 percentage points. For example, 93 percent of those who have no burnout symptoms said they would choose their work life again if given the opportunity, compared with only 32 percent of those who were completely burned out.
Primary care physicians who see medicine more as a calling report greater satisfaction in, for example, treating patients who struggle with substance dependence and obesity, the authors noted. If physicians do not see the practice of medicine as personally meaningful and serving a greater good, the authors added, “[their] performance may suffer and, more importantly, so too may the quality of care that patients receive.”
The authors also cited research showing that financial incentives [and chasing quality measures] aiming to encourage better performance may have the unintended consequence of exacerbating the problem by undermining professionals’ sense of autonomy and competence.
“Payers, policymakers and practice leaders should take care to foster a workplace environment that promotes physician well-being and implement performance-based incentives that support a sense of calling and prosocial motivations,” the study said.